Thursday, January 31, 2008

Grief and despair

From the highest to the absolute pits--today was a crappy day, in so many ways. Handyman went to work early and we all did our usual thing. At lunchtime, I asked #2 to help me take the "kitchen" chickens (say that three times fast) out to the barn as it was warming up. But before we got going, we fell into a discussion about the Great Depression and how it happened and what caused it, etc. I gave this amazing dissertation, simplifying the entire thing into a kid-friendly example of how banks can fail. I impressed myself tremendously and was thinking how "this" was homeschooling at its finest.

Then we headed out the door with fowl in hand(s). As we stepped out, #2 said, "Mom, there's a hawk!" and I looked and sure enough one flew out of the grass right outside our pasture fence, up onto the fence. We started going faster, shouting at it and it left and she said, "It's got something Mom. It dropped it. Oh, Mom, I think it's Sara."

I said, "No, I'm sure, no." I just focused on it flying away and when I looked toward the grass, I saw her. #2 was right. It was Sara. Sara, our beautiful little Sara, beloved by everyone who met her, was not moving, at all, in the grass. I cursed and ran on and told #2 to not look and stay away. She went on to the barn with my stupid old rooster, who has no toes and can't see and pretty much has a target on his back. I would have traded him in an instant to get Sara back.

But it couldn't be done. The hawk had done his deed swiftly and without error. Sara had not suffered. We would do all that. I just can't tell you how one silly little bird can make an entire family happy. She had more personality than all the others combined. She would hop up into your lap if you were sitting or onto your back if you were bending over. She loved to be put inside your winter coat, where she would happily take a nap. She would run to us and peck wet grass off our shoes or peck our fingers, hard, if we weren't paying enough attention. Even Handyman delighted in her.

It is a tragedy for us, truly. We received Sara as an egg, wrapped in bubble wrap, in a carton, wrapped in bubble wrap, in a priority mail USPS postal mailer. We stuck her under a broody hen and 21 days later, she hatched. They lived in our garage, in a baby pool for several weeks and then moved to the flower bed in front of our house for another month. When we would drive up, they would come out of the flowers like those guys in Field of Dreams. They would putter around and talk to us all day. It was a really sad day when we finally moved them to the hen yard. We missed them terribly.

Of course, both olders thought her death was their fault, as did I. Had we done any of a multitude of things differently, perhaps we could have prevented this. All I can think and tell them is that the Lord puts us through suffering to teach us. To teach us empathy for others who suffer and to help us recognize what He suffered in giving up His very son for us. Also, we looked for ways to be thankful. We are thankful that we got to have Sara, at all. To enjoy her life for almost two years. She was a delight and we all agreed that it was better to have known her and paid this terrible price than not to have known her at all. We've learned to appreciate each moment with someone. Pretty big lessons from a little bird.

Busy, Busy, Busy

Handyman has been off this week, so we are busier than one-armed paper hangers! There's no rest for the wicked (me) when Handyman is home.

Monday was still warm, but drizzly and Handyman was putting up guttering--big, long guttering on the barn. And, since my dad is still in FLORIDA, without his dogs--#1 and I had to fill the big boy shoes. We all got to stand on ladders with our hands over our heads, for hours it seemed, in the drizzle. Did I mention that these are leaning ladders with two feet on the frozen, muddy ground--not folding ladders with four feet? I have grown through a lot of ladder fear during my years with Handyman. He is a ladder fanatic. His record is an 8' folding ladder, bungie-corded to the top of four levels of scaffolding and he stood on the tip top. I was pregnant at the time--it was not a restful scene.

So after the gutter was mostly done, I was cleaning the stalls while H. worked on the downspout in the barn aisle. Now, the entire south side of our barn is open at this time. The horses can go in and out into the paddock at will. So he's inside the barn and I am in that open-sided stall area and there are a few hens working the manure/compost thing for me.

All of a sudden there's a hawk landing almost at my feet in the dirt of the paddock and the hens are leaving VERY quickly. I yell, "a hawk", to Handyman and then go at it with my manure fork to scare it away. It doesn't scare too quickly and then it just flies to the paddock fence and looks back over its shoulder at me. Handyman goes out the big barn door, around the corner to look at it from the other way and it flies back toward me! He thought it was going for my hat!

Then it goes up into a tree over the driveway, and watches for more hens. They were all frozen in the barn aisle. So interesting to see. They just freeze wherever they are. No one murmurs or turns their heads, for minutes.

Self-Picture of Hat>

So, that excitement over, I head out to get the mail and H. hears #1 yelling from the house that there's a hawk in the garage! So we hustle up to the house in the gloomy gray. Sure enough, that hawk has flow in the garage door toward the back of the garage where there's a fixed window. Unfortunately for him there is also a huge 5x5' fixed window stored almost exactly in front of the actual garage window and now this raptor is stuck between the two windows, flapping wildly, unable to get out.

Unfortunately for us, the stored window is wedged behind a furnace unit on one side and a LOT of racked lumber on the other side, with a big ZTR mower parked in front of it. So there will be no sliding the window away from the wall. So Superman, I mean, Handyman dons big leather gloves and gives it his best ornithologist try. He succeeds in getting the bird to drop all the way down to the floor where he cannot reach it at all and it is still flapping violently. #1 and I are hiding in the breezeway so as to not frighten it more or get hit by talons on its way out.

Handyman has us dismantle the apple picker from its 14' pole and he uses that to scoop the bird up into the window sill position where he can try to get a hold on it. Finally, after lots and lots of flapping and minor cursing, he nabs it! I, of course, remind him to cover its eyes and when he does, complete calmness abounds! It was a little thing. We determined it to be a sharp-shinned hawk, probably a juvenile. I'm not sure he could have picked up one of our hens--but H. reminded me that he doesn't have to pick it up to shred it and eat it! Anyway, we released him/her and were thrilled to see that he/she had no trouble flying. What a thrill!

Tuesday it continued to be warm and grey, but then we got one of my favorite Midwestern weather scenarios--Tornado warnings in January! Yes folks, we went from 50 degrees at noone to 16 degrees at 11 pm. with thunderstorms that became ice storms. Can you ask for more fun than lightening and ice in the same 6 hour period? I think not. The girls were trying to put the plexiglass in the big chicken coop window before the rain really got here and were scared back by a huge lightening show. Then after they went to bed, Handyman had to pry open the breezeway door for me because it was frozen shut and we had to go put vaseline on the combs of some of the chickens, to prevent frostbite.

And he complains about all the coats hanging up in the kitchen. We can't put anything away--who knows what season tomorrow will be! Horse blankets on, horse blankets off. Chickens in the kitchen, chickens out of the kitchen.

Oh, oh! The piece-de-resistance was that yesterday (temperature 14F), Handyman hired the big strapping son of a friend and they took down the eyesore behind our house! (This same young man also worked for us on the hottest day of the summer, putting in a new retaining wall. Poor sap! He must think we are complete freaks.) Remember, we bought an "as-is" house with all the eccentricities that come along with that. We, I mean, Handyman has removed all the furniture piles from the yard and re-done the house so that it doesn't look the same, at all. But there was one last vestige of icky hideousness lurking on the north side of our house. The only room that faces that way is the living room, where he has been redoing the deck--which got interupted by the barn electric project and then Christmas. (We have remodeling ADD.)

See--I wasn't kidding about the whole eyesore thing!

So, what I am saying is that I sort of stay away from the living room, so I don't have to see that thing. That thing is/was a barn about 12x18' with a sloped roof, looked like it was built out of particle board. It was also filled with junk, including appliances. #3 called it the possum barn. All children were banned from it, at all times, but I don't think they would have gone near it anyway. Everything about it said "70's Baby!" Cheap construction, weenie design and stash your trash mentality. We found a walker??, futon frame, two freezers (complete with dead raccoon inside--poor guy!) a rolling seeder, miles of garden edging and albums filled with pictures of kids available for adoption ??. Weird, weird, weird and ugly and yucky and now it's GONE! Two loads to the dump, a bunch burned and two freezers left sitting there. Bummer. Looking at old rusty appliances is almost as bad as the barn itself.

I guess my appliance lifting quota is going up this month. I'll have to post a picture of my biceps.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

What a day!

Wow! We packed it in today. It was so beautiful (take note that I said this) here! The sun was bright all day and it warmed up to the mid-balmy-thirties. It felt like summer. We all got to go to church together, which is not happening frequently enough. We sang that great song, Jesus Paid It All.

The guest speaker was Paul David Tripp, the brother to the guy who wrote Shepherding A Child's Heart. He spoke on "playing with the box." He started with a story about trying to find a perfect gift for his son, who always ended up enjoying the box more than the toy. He went on to talk about God's most perfect gift for us, His grace, and how we "play with the box" instead. We diddle around with a little ministry or dabble in learning the word, or serving or worshipping instead of throwing ourselves headlong in needing, seeking and following God and appreciating His grace and what it does.

Although it was the Sabbath, there was no rest for the wicked (me)! I emptied muck tubs and refilled them. Handyman hauled water for me, and then I had to help carry out the old washer, because my dad is in FLORIDA, without his dogs. Then I cleaned the chicken house, which hadn't been done since fall. Yikes! I got to use my MP3 player ( another hand-me-down) which was great. I'm sure Handyman got a kick out of seeing the chicken litter flying out the door while my flat, alto voice is warbling "He was only thirty-threeeeeee..." by Avalon. Then I had to haul and dump three poop-sleds full of chicken litter into the new garden plot. Frankly, I didn't care what I had to do as long as it was outside, it was glorious.

Handyman was burning up a brush pile, so he sat there laughing as I went zipping by on my ATV with the MP3 player going, taking feed to horses. He loves seeing me with the little modern conveniences that make rural life easier. Plus, I'm a bad singer, so that makes it all the funnier. Then I also had to carry in the new washer. I try to limit my appliance carrying to one-per-month, but my dad is in FLORIDA, so I had to up the quota.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Seasonal funk disorder

Handyman has come down with seasonal funk disorder (SFD). He said today he is anxious for spring--little early for that if you ask me. Again, I ask, why do we live in this God-forsaken state???? Oh, and don't forget, we are stuck inside with three punks, three cats (two of whom hate one another), four dogs (one who is co-dependent with a baby squeekie thing she found under my bed) and a rooster with no toes. Oh, and our team isn't going to the Super Bowl. You can see how this would spiral downward quickly. Oh, and he had multiple meals of chili yesterday--oh and the transmission on the washer went AWOL today.

Did I mention that Denver has 100 more sunny days per year than we do?

Oh, and I had to get another 5 gal. bucket of "Neigh-lox" today for the pony. Nothing like an 800 lb. pony with a sensitive stomach. Did I mention that "Neigh-lox" is $150/bucket? And we got a $450 washer at Lowes for $175. Can't decide which was the better buy! ;)

Today's pie/crust story

Somehow, of course, Handyman could not finish the few odds and ends in MIL's basement in one day. Of course. That is one of the distinct problems of having a handy husband who is into detail. This is something one has to become accustomed to--like dry wine. There is not a project that is done slap-dash here.

Anyway, since he wasn't done in one day, he gets more than one pie. (See yesterday's post.) Today's pie was apple. Today the crust was not the focus--weird. But the filling was problematic. Seems she decided to use her deep dish pie plate to keep the pie from boiling over, but she only had one can (CAN?) of pie filling and that is definitely not enough for a deep dish pie. Too bad.

Then when I talked to her on the phone she told me she bought a store-brand of pie filling and one can was not enough. I told her that buying store-brand, CANNED pie filling was asking for trouble...and that maybe her closet shelving would not turn out straight. One should never cut corners mid-job in "paying" for one's labor.

Hope it wasn't a box crust.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Another entertaining meal with the inlaws

It was another fun time with the inlaws last night. MIL always has tasks that require Handyman's skills and sometimes she wanders into complaint territory, that he's not getting things done often/quickly enough to suit her. (She obviously has never lived in a fixer-upper like someone else we know.) Anyway, I encouraged her to sweeten the deal for him a little by offering him free supper with dessert. He always mentions her meatloaf, mostly because it is something he likes but also it can be relied upon to turn out pretty consistently, whereas many other meals there have more wildly divergent results.

So she had offered to make meatloaf and pecan pie if he would come do a few things for her. In the morning she said she had a very hectic day coming up and did not know if she could get it all done in time for us to eat before Awana. She said she would call us back and let us know whether to plan on it. I never heard back from her, so Handyman made a pot of chili for our supper.

At ten til five, she called to say it was all ready! So, we needed to drop everything and get down there so the girls could eat and get to Awana on time. Handyman gets a little brusque getting people out the door and I remind him that I was supposed to have more than 10 minutes notice (including travel time) and we still have lots of animals that have to be fed, etc. So he headed out the door with children and I soldiered on with livestock duties.

When I got down there to eat (quickly) and take the girls on to Awana, they were already eating and as is her habit, MIL opened the conversation with tonight's version of why the meal was a flop. Now you have to understand that I have been eating with MIL, fairly frequently for about 17 years and I have never been to a meal at her house without her beginning with something along these lines: "Well, I'm not sure it's fit to eat." That's actually the exact quote from about 82% of those meals. Every now and then there's a variation--like last night: "Well, this pie may be a complete failure..." Then she branches off into the pie crust issue. The pie crust issue is another ongoing disappointment.

MIL's mother was a farm wife, revered by all who knew her. Handyman and his brother loved her and so did FIL. I never got to meet her and I've always been sad about that. Anyway, apparently between all her farm chores and responsibilities, she never took any time to teach MIL how to cook. MIL laments, a lot, about how she cannot make a crust like her mother's, NO MATTER WHAT! She's tried lard and shortening and butter and cold water, warm water and pre-made. They are all disasters. She has called me and told me that she's made three complete batches of crust in one day and THROWN them all OUT, because they didn't please her. (How bad can pie crust be--it comes in a box for goodness sakes--I'll eat it.)

Well, last night's pie crust was another dismal debacle, in her opinion. Meanwhile I noticed my family shoving it down by the large forkfuls. No disappointment noted. Then she went on to explain that the pie had boiled over and the drippings had caught fire in the oven! There's a little excitement for your dining pleasure. She had thrown some baking soda on it--but missed the burning stuff and Handyman had thrown the entire boxful into the oven, saving the day and the new house. (Of course.)

So, flames are not something I have ever experienced while dining with the inlaws and I'm a little sad I can't add it to my repertoire. Handyman told me later that the reason the pie boiled over and then caught fire was because the baked potatoes weren't done. ?? He told her to put them in the microwave to finish them up, but she thought she'd just turn up the oven (to 500), thus causing the pie to boil over and the drippings to combust. Yee ha!

Another actual quote from MIL at another meal: "This meat smelled awful the whole time it was cooking." Then there was the fish-meatball episode, and the unidentifiable meat from the freezer and the whole price per pound issue. Fodder for another day...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Now What??!??!

Okay--so after my glowing endorsement, Fred Thompson drops out of the race. I'm hoping very much that he'll get a VP slot from our candidate, and praying that candidate is not McCain or Huckabee. I guess my greatest concern is that there are way too many folks out there who have the attention span of a gnat and are actually using the mainstream media to make decisions and opinions. Yikes!

I am petrified that most people spend more time watching American Idol, than learning about how government works. I heard on the radio the other day, the host's college-student child had a test that asked who was the "top lawmaker" in our country and the father/host answered that it must be the VP, who is the tie-breaker in house votes, or it could possibly be said that it is the Speaker of the House. So they look it up on the internet and the answer was the President!! Which is completely incorrect and inaccurate--but that was the "correct" answer for this test. The President doesn't make laws! He's not even in the legislative branch. He can't provide healthcare; he can't change your property taxes and he can't provide more jobs.

Please people, pay attention--there's a lot at stake here, but don't watch CNN and think you're getting the whole picture. Don't read the factoids at MSNBC and believe you're "informed".

With regard to Iraq--here's my take: We have our finger in a wasp nest. We're getting stung, and it's painful. But if we pull our finger out--what d'you think is going to happen?? I honestly don't know if it is possible for a Muslim country to have a democratic government. That worries me. But I also know that it took almost a decade for our federal government to be up and running with effectiveness and immediately after it was started, our country was in the worst economic depression ever in our history, for about seven years.

Governments don't just pop open for business. Yeah, Iraq is slow. But no one over there has ever experienced democratic government before. No one--in generations! The mindset of freedom is all new to them. And yeah, we've lost soldiers and that's painful. So is war on your own land. Often I think about what it must have been like to be in England and have enemy bombers flying over, at night, dropping terror and destruction and death. We've never had to experience that. And I hope our efforts in the middle east right now, will continue to keep our future free from such fearful possibilities.

Our choices in this election are critical, but I guess that has been true for any presidential election. We're not hiring a pastor here--we need a strong leader who doesn't make choices based on popular opinion--because remember, most of that populous wants to watch tv and be taken care of. Look around you at this store this week. Those people have votes that count just as much as yours. Do your part. Be informed--pay attention.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Goin' political on ya!

Gang! The true conservative candidate is Fred Thompson. Check out his stuff on You Tube. Huckabee is not the real deal...the media loves him because they know he'll get eaten alive if he's the nominee. The real conservatives are the ones the media says are "done", "out" or just not mentioned.

Case in point--Huckabee was endorsed by the NEA in New Hampshire. That stinks to high heaven. The NEA is the largest branch of the Democratic party. As a homeschooler, I don't want anyone endorsed by the NEA anywhere near the White House.

Fred Thompson has a long, consistent conservative history. He's got the connections and the experience, not to mention the education. He's been around the Washington scene for a long time and was walking the walk before some of them were even talking the talk.

MLK Day, I Have a Dream

Here is the complete text of Dr. King's speech in Washington.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Nutrition Lady here!

I admit that in the past I have taken pride in feeding my children in a healthy manner, even against their little wills. I have a wheat mill and I am not afraid to use it--although it sounds like a jet engine and we all have to leave the immediate area for the sake of our long-term hearing when it is running. I headed to the grocery a few days ago, just ahead of the arctic air blast that was moving our way, and this was what ended up in my cart:

5 cans of Chef Boy-ar-dee

4 boxes Kraft Mac-n-Cheese

1 bottle artificially flavored coffee creamer

1 box of semi-sweet, mostly nutritional cereal

1 gallon very expensive organic milk

4 pkgs marked down Laura's Lean hamburger patties

2 bags Doritos

10 4-roll packs of toilet paper (it was on sale!)

3 boxes cream cheese (low-fat variety)

1/2 gallon buttermilk

1 box store-brand Ritz-type crackers

6 4-paks of ready-to-eat pudding cups

I did not feel very "low-processed" as I checked out. I am totally visual, so as I scanned my items, I wondered what my friends would think if they saw me taking home all this rubbish.

First of all, they would think we have multiple family members with digestive disorders requiring all that toilet paper. The closest we get to that, is one unnamed family member who, every now and then, has found it very entertaining to wipe with an entire roll or dip the roll into water and watch it expand! This cuts down the paper reserves pretty quickly. To add insult to injury, when I got to my car to unload, the cart kid came by to courteously take my cart and he retrieved one pack of toilet paper that had fallen into the parking lot behind my car. I am one class act!

But back to nutrition--there was not a green vegetable in sight. Not even a canned green vegetable. Can I admit that I grew up on Chef Boy-ar-Dee and tomato soup?? So far, no major health issues. Yes, my mom did make toothpaste for us once, before the rebellion. But as far as I can remember, there was always bologna in the house. And I want to say that they just don't make bologna like they used to. Every now and then I get a big hankering for a bologna sandwich and I have tried several of those packaged varieties and I cannot imagine why those are still being made! Do people really feed that to their kids? I think that is one of those "foods" that isn't really food at all--like Cool Whip. Put it out in your garage, in the summer. It doesn't melt.

But I digress. My cart was a hodge podge of quicky foods that my kids will eat that allows me time to get on to the more labor-intensive tasks I have--like rounding up library dvd's that I never watch and shovelling horse manure. We did have oatmeal several times that week--and I made chicken noodle soup with a roasted chicken from the store and boxed organic chicken broth with a dollop of chicken soup base paste, from the store.

I gotta go, my crown seems to be slipping.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

NFL Names

I knew the Colts had a couple of names to add to my collection: Craphonso Thorpe and Devin Aromashodu. I also like Antwan Randal El (who used to be a Steeler) and Troy Polamalu, who is a Steeler. While I was at the Steelers site checking the spelling on Troy's name, I came across Willie Colon (poor guy) and Santonio Holmes. Is that one of those names that was created to commemorate a vacation? Like Paris or Ireland?

OMG! I was right! I did hear "Atari" tonight! I just went to the Packers site, because there was a last name that didn't quite fit across the jersey that I wanted to find, and sure enough--Atari Bigby is a player for the Packers. What was that girl thinking about??

Tonight's winner though, is, De Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila of the Green Bay Packers. He's his own wordsearch puzzle methinks. "How many words can you make out of your own name?" They also had a "Ruvell" (first name), a "Bubba" (really!) and a "Poppinga" (last name).

I am sensitive to interesting names because I married one. My last name went from five plain little letters to ten letters, with only four consonants. It's a party trick!

Movin' in

I'm moving over from Homeschool Blogger because I am too darn thick to figure out how to work their format. I have really enjoyed blogging over there and will try to transfer all my old posts for your reading pleasure. This seems to be MUCH more user-friendly already. But I am very greatful to Gina and Paul for getting HSB up and providing it to all of us.

You may have read over there, that I am trying not to define myself only in terms of being a homeschooler. My months of reading Pioneer Woman have helped me learn to appreciate all the facets of my wacky life. Homeschooling is something I do--yes, a pervasive "something I do", but still, it is not who I am. I think my tunnel vision on the school part has caused me some atrophy in other important areas of my life which I am trying to rectify.

Thus, the curve in my road towards more emphasis on character and whole life with my kids, not just academics. The increased effort to enjoy the irregularities of our life and the resulting relaxation of my parenting. Also, I have to say my recent obsession with debt reduction has removed a giant monkey from my back. I am looking forward to all the things I will be free to do when we crawl out from under it.

Tonight's highlight: My favorite NFL name "Plaxico Burress." I have been saying Plaxico Burress all season, because I could not believe any woman would name her son Plaxico. I did not know who he played for or what position he held and tonight I watched him play and entire game! I'm going to look into some of the other unique NFL names--I swear I heard "Atari" at one point, but maybe not.

Oh, and I have two chickens in my kitchen right now. I'm willing to lay money on the table that I am the only American woman currently hosting live domestic fowl in her kitchen for more than 24 hours! If you know of another, send me her email so we can start a support group. (The rooster is so glad to have company.) Details to come. I have to go hay, again.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Barn Spirituality

To me, stall cleaning is a spiritual experience. And not in the sense of, "Oh God, do I have to keep doing this?" or "Oh God, how can they produce this much?" Whenever I clean stalls (every morning), I think, this must be what God feels like with me.

He is sorting through my life, picking out the piles of yuck, here and there, thinking--"Good grief, Child. Not more. I thought we dealt with this already." He's not angry. Just diligent. More piles, more cleaning. Fact of life.

I'm not mad that there are piles. That's what they do. Part of keeping animals is cleaning up the mess, day after day after day. I am pleased when the stall is clean. It makes me feel good. I am a good keeper for them, to provide a nice, dry bed. Then in my analogy, I have to add the chickens. Because in my barn, there is usually a hen who is very anxious to get to the manure piles before me. The hens can usually lead me to the piles that have been camouflaged with sawdust. I might miss them, except there's a hen, dutifully uncovering them.

So today I thought, (I am so deep), that the hen is the Holy Spirit. I have tried my best to cover up some of the yuck; to make it blend in. But there's that Holy Spirit, not missing one blemish. But uncovering the mess, for my benefit, actually. Bringing it out in the open, so the Lord can deal with me and it. I would rather the piles stay covered, but that diligent Spirit is bringing them out, allowing the Lord to take it all away.

Something about a barn, makes a lot of big things, a lot simpler. Cleaning stalls is good therapy.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Book Review

This was the weirdest Christmas year. I think I got two books! This is unheard of--and the books were: Tasha Tudor's dollhouse (a coffee table book) and The Injured Horse--a reference book for owners. Not exactly your bedside comfort tome.

Weird! I did get 37 calendars, though. Currently we have three calendars in the kitchen--the absolutely required Welsh Corgi calendar (had to get it at Petsmart AFTER Christmas!), the Pioneer Woman calendar (, and the free horse calendar that you get from your enquine vet after you spend thousands of dollars with him. So no matter which way I turn in the kitchen, I cannot escape the date and the mammals that are relying on me for food and manure removal.

We still have a rooster calendar from my mom, a "Mom" calendar by Boynton that has thousands of little slots to write your responsibilities each month, and a three month revolving calendar from my dad, who apparently thinks I need to get a firmer grasp on the passage of time. I think I still owe him for that last load of sawdust. I also picked up one of those mini-calendars for my office, of Caribbean beaches. The pictures are fabulous and just what I need to get through midwestern winters, except now that it's up, I cannot make out the dates from across the room--and my office is not more than 10' across.

Oh, and #2 got a sweet little mousie lady calendar. Speaking of little mousies, there was one in the chicken scratch bag yesterday, taking a little snooze. Did I mention we have a cat that must weigh 15 lbs? Perhaps his time at the buffet bar is interrupting his predatory responsibilities...but I digress.

Book reviews: Handyman brought home for me, around my birthday time, Tony Dungy's book, Quiet Strength. I had considered getting it from the library, but hadn't made the effort yet, what with the $687 fine hanging over my head for a video called Tone Your Thighs in 30 Days or something. Anyway, he brought it home and I was bogged down in a biography of Queen Elizabeth II, so I picked it up, in the "reading room". It has been very enjoyable, especially if you know any names in football in the last 20 years or so. Tony has worked with lots of the big names and many of the very successful ones.

His philosophies are practical and not preachy at all. One of his main priorities is doing the routine stuff better than anyone else does it, the little things, the simple things. That's surely something I could apply here... putting the laundry AWAY before anymore shows up. Like sweeping the floor before a backhoe is necessary. This, of course, will require WALKING AWAY from the computer before the food burns, etc. Gotta go hay.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

But seriously, Folks

Okay, because the moths seem to have been eradicated and the flies are in remission, I've decided to buckle down and talk about serious issues. Resolutions and priorities. Yes, I like to make New Year's resolutions, although this year my enthusiasm has waned somewhat. Must be the mud. I like resolutions. I like blank pages. I like mulligans. Gives me hope. I keep wondering if my positive outlook will wilt as I get older. I used to wonder if I was positive-minded or if it was just an act, an efficient form of denial. (See old blog on fake it 'til you make it.)

After spending time around my inlaws, it's always necessary to a) get out and watch George Carlin videos and b)practice a hobby of any sort. Now, I have loved my inlaws for almost 20 years. They are kind and generous. My MIL, in particular, is a negative person. It's so disappointing because she can be cheerful, but the underlying current is always defeat. Always has been, my husband and BIL tell me. It's grating. She has no reason to be, at all. She had an idyllic rural childhood, was popular in school, etc. She reveres her parents and is healthy as a horse. She has never wanted, really. She got to build her first home, had nice things, but did work when the boys went to high school and beyond. But she has no appreciation for her situation, at all.

I think part of it is my FIL. He had a sad childhood. Not abused, but certainly emotionally abandoned, several times and ways. Very closed-off most of the time. Now he is old and crabby and it makes me sad for the girls to know him as this. I'm sure his closed-off-ness has made my MIL starved for affection, attention, companionship. And now that she has catered to him for a long time, there's no changing it. He has no responsibilities, no hobbies, no interests and she won't make/take time to do anything but fret and worry and have self-pity.

It's kind of a whirlpool of depression that we have to wade in and out of, warily.

On the other hand, my grandma is the same age as my FIL. She has had breast cancer and two knee replacements. Now this woman became a widow at age 40 with a 5 yr. old and a 17 yr. old (my mom.) She didn't have a college education and she couldn't drive. It was 1956. She came from a relatively poor family, but close-knit. She put herself through LPN school and learned to drive. She worked in nursing homes until I had children and retired as a licensed social worker when she was 70. She lives on the most minimum of incomes, with help from my parents and my uncle and aunt, drives, sews and quilts and takes classes and volunteers at a community co-op where she sells her wares. She plays bunco, gardens and could not live without a canine companion. Until this summer, she was driving 3 hrs. one-way to see her doctor, where she used to live!!

What's the difference here? I have become firmly convinced over the years that the difference is hobbies, or interests. My grandma has lots of reasons to get out of bed each day. Her pet needs her and her hobbies are little mountains of accomplishment that have admirers when she finishes. She doesn't make enough money of them to warrant the time spent, so the reward is not financial. But she creates and completes. Admiration and flattery are the icing on the cake. Her mother was a tailor on the side, so sewing is a family tradition that she has done since childhood, but quilting is new, and detailed. My grandma has two sisters (she is the oldest.) The second sister is also a quilter, collects antique glass and has taken up painting in the last 10 years. The youngest sister, who has no hobbies (and a traumatic life) is the most aged of them all. Like my FIL, she has no hobbies. No reasons to do anything but sleepwalk through the day meeting the most basic needs.

Now, I would also argue that the faithlife is almost non-existent in these, as well. My in-laws do go to church often. But there is no daily walk of faith, no reliance on prayer or God or interest in such as important, although they would tell you that they definitely believe in God and Jesus. I've struggled with whether I should be witnessing to my in-laws more about a stronger reliance on God. But it just seems hopeless (this from a "positive" person.) I guess that doesn't say a lot for my faith.

My point here was to encourage everyone to have some hobby. A hobby that doesn't require leaving your house. Find things that can travel with you, like handcrafts--knitting, crocheting, woodcarving, whatever. Encourage and cultivate these in your children. I think that this is crucial for a variety of reasons. Our lives have become soooooo easy and comfortable. We don't have to grow or harvest or butcher anything for our daily existence. Our children struggle not to meet basic needs. They need to see repeated, continuous effort that ends in a completion, with something to show for it--in something besides paper pushing, and games on tv are not it.

Michael Pearl has a great article this month about getting off video games, with some excellent recommendations in it. Go to and it's right at the top of the page. I know most people are not lucky enough to live the rural/muddy life that I get to live...poor things. So extra effort has to be made by you suburbanites to get your kids out into life. People are hardwired to accomplish, especially boys. We don't have to harvest wheat and put up hay anymore and that's why we see young people doing insane things like base jumping and land luge-ing. Yikes, check those out on You Tube. (We're sticking with needlework, here.)

Anyway, my priorities/resolutions: Don't become old and crabby. I don't think it's a requirement. I want to be happy and appreciative, even if I hurt. I want to be an example of kind Christianity, because I wish there were more elderly examples around me. (And I gave birth to a baby at age 40, so I will be an old grandma.) I want to continue to be interested in the world around me, including voting against nationalized health care whenever possible--and I am self-employed, so I do know what this involves! I want to value and encourage interests for each of my children that they can do their entire lives. This does not involve computer/electronic equipment. This does not involve thousands of dollars of investment. These should be things that they can do anywhere, anytime, at any income level.

I want to appreciate everything I have. My health, food in two refrigerators, bills paid, hardworking husband, heated mattress pad, a large variety of animal manures and high-speed internet. You get the idea. I will not harp on my kitchen situation. I will be glad that the rooster has a place to stay when it is freezing, that is convenient to me and easily cleaned. I will be glad that Handyman bought those little boot trays to hold all 24 pairs of boots on a given day.

Today's list of things I like about my kids: They are enthusiastic and creative. They are energizer kids. They are watching me every moment to soak up whatever I am putting out there. Heaven help us! The spotlight's on me, again.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Poop Sled

Yeah, it's not a real inspiring title, but it's reality here. Last winter when the snow got too deep for the lawnmower to pull the trailers full of manure to the garden, we had to come up with another way to haul that black/green gold to the tomato beds. So Handyman being the genius that he is, came home from Menards with a large, heavy, plastic sled. The tag had a lovely illustration of a deer carcass haphazardly slung across said sled, but we had bigger plans! Hitch up two children and numerous small dogs and voila! Poop sled! Yeeeha!
This year, it's gotten even better. Now we have an ATV! I swear, we must look rich to the outside world. We are just the grateful beneficiaries of terrific friends, who have cool stuff! Handyman's friend Mark races ATV's with his son, who has now gone away to boarding school. Their very first, little-guy ATV was lonely and unloved in the barn next to the big, manly, racing ATV's. So Mark sent it to us, for free! It's perfect for us girls! It has electric start and no clutch. We love it. It's so little, it kills Handyman's tail bone when he rides it further than 20 yards, so he has to kneel on the seat. He sort of looks like those one-legged skiers.
Anyway, now we throw the rope of the poop sled over the back of the ATV seat and away we go. We had to convince #3 that she really shouldn't ride the poop sled when it's full. Her head is about as high as the top of the muck tubs and with all the joyous high-speed bouncing, her hat can get a little, well, you know. Sooooo, she rides the sled back to the barn, after it has unloaded its glorious cargo.
I was hauling and emptying the sled all by myself the other day and wondering if we should do some kind of cool paint job--a la "Primp" my ride. I know that's not the real title, but I am not going there. I called Handyman and asked him if anyone would go for a show called "Primp" my poop ride. He did not get it at all. What? What does that mean? My wicked humor was lost on him. I don't know if those flame painter guys could do flaming manure piles or something on my itty-bitty ATV. Too bad you can't see it!