Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Down to the river to chill

So what to do when you are sick and tired of the same old-same old? Load all your little hellions into the van and set off on An Excursion!

But only after you tell them that you will all be going on An Excursion—they scream YAY!!—and will therefore be missing out on the Sunday night movie—they FREAK OUT WAAAH!—at which point you give them a lecture about if they can’t be flexible with movie night then you’re going to have to NIX MOVIE NIGHT ALL TOGETHER. Because, it’s summer time, guys, and that means that we don’t need to be entertained by that little evil box SO JUST GET OVER IT ALL READY.

Then be happy when everyone quickly readjusts their attitudes and runs around squeezing into too-small suits and stealing your sneakers because you have been negligent in buying them any clothes because it’s just too dang expensive and you hate squandering entire evenings on kid-centric shopping trips. And besides, you spent all the allotted money for clothing on some yoga pants because how you look is more important than how the kids look because they can get away on their youthful good looks and you can’t, so there.

When everyone is in the car, take a picture of yourself out the window. Don’t bark.

Then take a picture of your lap via the flip-down mirror and be happy because it looks semi-hipstamatic.

Take a picture of the pack in the back.

Take a picture of the convenience store and the man you married exiting it with a luxurious bag o’ Lays.

Then tell the kids to cut out all the happy screaming because some paranoid person will walk by and think you don’t feed them. (You don't really say that.)

Get to the swimming hole, because that’s what it means to Go On An Excursion in your house, and be a little worried about all the drunk adults running around throwing cups of water on each other, swearing, and—Mom! They’re snogging!—yep, snogging. In your Harry Potter house, PDA is known as snogging.

The creek is quite high and fr-fr-fr-freezing cold. While the kids go about the business of acquiring blue lips, you entertain yourself with the steller combination of running water and different apertures and shutter speeds.

You take a crazy number of pictures of your kids looking like drowned rats.

In between times, you steal pictures of your husband.

Your son strikes up a friendship with another preteen—your husband even sees them bond with the oh-so-cool fist bump that you know your son has never done before.

Which is kinda funny because just that very morning your husband had a conversation with some fellow church goers about how homeschooled kids don’t really know how to socialize, though your husband wasn’t saying that, of course. And then your husband says, “Our homeschooled son is out there making friends with complete strangers and here I am, a product of public schools, cowering in a corner,” and you laugh and think to yourself, I need to blog about this sometime.

Some friends meet up with you, and your daughter begs their baby and enjoys some quality cuddle time.

As you watch her hold the baby with one hand and eat with the other while observing the creek-side action, and then, when the baby fusses and she automatically starts to jiggle her leg without ever looking at the infant, you think the thought that has crossed your mind many, many times, “Now would be the time to have another child. I wouldn't have to do anything!”

Because this seven-year-old child of yours would be perfectly capable of doing everything for the baby, except for breastfeeding—and she’d probably try to do that, too—plus, you have two older kids who could do everything as well.

At this point in your life, a baby would be a delicious piece of cake.

But it ain’t gonna happen, so you shake the thought and snap a picture of your friends’ extremely adorable and precocious daughter.

And then the snoggers leave and your friends leave, and your kids are so frozen stiff you’re afraid they might make like a board and float downstream so you pack it all up and head home.

This same time, years previous: barbecued pork ribs, fresh strawberry cream pie (I've made two already this spring) (And check out the awesome, no-shrink pie crust while you're at it. It's awesome.)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The saturation point

Written yesterday afternoon...

I just woke from a deep, late afternoon nap, the kind of nap that leaves your face streaked with crease marks and your body feeling like it has sunk into itself.

It's the kind of nap that I almost never take.

It's the kind of nap that I’ve been craving.

It’s been a little rough around here lately. Yesterday I cried the ugly cry in front of all four of my kids, and at one point—the point where I wailed “You guys are my favorite people in the whole wide world and I can’t stand being with you because all you do is FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!”—the three oldest burst into tears, in unison.

It was the scene straight out of The Sound of Music where Maria sits on the pinecone at the dinner table and then covers for the naughty children which causes them to start boo-hooing.

Though in our case there was no mild sniffling. We don’t do anything mildly in this house, not even crying.

We were a sight to behold.

I’m not sure if it’s me or the kids, or maybe a little of both. All I know is I’m exhausted, worn out by all the bickering and crying and yelling. I don’t have any more tricks up my sleeve. Nothing works anyway, so it’s probably no big loss, though the lack of options does leave me feeling vaguely desperate and resource-less, like a hopeless lumpy of a mother.

It’s not that there’s anything big going on here. No, it’s just a combination of little things, the gist of which is that I wake up in a good mood, eager to get to my day, to read to the kids, work on projects, do my cooking/gardening/writing, to just hang with my gang because they are so incredibly interesting and creative and fun. But then my hopeful early-morning expectations get blown to smithereens by this scene, times three hundred and twenty-six:

*a child has a full-on hissy fit over the size of the cereal bowl or some such nonsense
*a child scream names (“sexy head” is a new favorite) at anyone who dares to look in her general direction
*a child stares pointedly at the screaming child who does not want to be stared at
*a child crouches at the table like a wild animal and drips milk over table and floor

And that’s all in the first ten seconds of breakfast.

As I go about putting out fires, separating children, meting out consequences, distracting and directing and redirecting, the wind whooshes right out of my sails, taking all my happy-thought goals and dreams with it, and I’m left drifting, bobbing up and down on the endless sea of attitudes and chores. It’s depressingly disappointing.

To top it off, my feet have been aching like I’m eight-months pregnant, I pierced the palm of my hand cutting boiled eggs with a curved knife blade (duh), and I’m sick of not spending money.


And since I can’t do or have those things (they wouldn't fix anything anyway, sniff-sniff), I’m left with much more down-to-earth (though equally highly improbable) wants:

*I want everyone to talk in hushed tones
*I want everyone to walk—no, tiptoe through the house
*I want everyone to come when called
*I want everyone to do the tasks they’re asked to do the first time they’re asked to do them
*I want everyone to smile angelically
*I want everyone to say “please” and “thank you” and such sundry pleasantries as “would you like help with that, dear sister?” and “oh, you want to play with the toy that is mine? But of course you may, dear brother!”

And no, I am not PMSy. Why do you ask?

And lest you think it is complete pandemonium and chaos in this house of mine, let me assure you: it is complete pandemonium and chaos.

And still, we keep everlastingly at it. In the rare moments of calm between the foghorn bellows, marathon name-calling sessions, and flying fists, I make a conscious effort to kiss curly-haired heads and stinky-boy necks. I pin the dishwasher’s hands to her side in a big bear hug. I make eye contact with each pair of blue eyes and smile, if only for a second. This rough patch too shall pass.

And then there will be a new rough patch, sohelpmegod.

The sheer intensity of it is enough to lay me flat.

Shortly after that ugly cry of mine, my son walked through the kitchen where I was getting lunch together, sighed heavily and stated matter-of-factly, “It’s what it means to be a mom.”

I think what he meant was, You just discovered the toughest part of parenting, Mom.

Yeah, boy. Did I ever.

Fed Up to My Eyeballs

This same time, years previous: the ways we play (ironic, no?), rhubarb tart and rhubarb tea

Friday, May 27, 2011

One dead mouse

Before my story begins, let me say this: mice do not freak me out. Back when I was a pipsqueak, I used to raise them for science. And I don’t mean for my science lessons, but rather for the much broader definition of science—the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment (thanks, wicky)—by selling them to real, live scientists at auctions. I cleaned the mouse cages, fed them, held them, and got bitten by them, no big deal. (Also, it was a much smaller operation than I’m leading you to believe.)

So see, mice and me are cool.

However, I do not like mice. They stink up my stove, pee and poop everywhere, and are, in general, totally, absolutely, and completely vile.

Live mice, in particular, totally piss me off. As in, at the mere sight of one I will whip off my flip-flop and smack them senseless. I’ve been known to bait them with crackers and trap them in plastic bags and then wail the living daylights out of them in the middle of the night (while living in a storage shed in Nicaragua).

(Also in Nicaragua, I was awakened one night by a mama rat—RAT!—pawing through my hair. I had fed her pack of nekkid babies to a dog and she had come back to haunt me to pieces, I guess.)

Lately, our phantom mouse, for we do indeed have a phantom mouse, has made several appearances. One night I was sitting on the floor counting money, wearing a bathrobe and not much more, when the little gray demon shot across the rug in my general direction (remember, I was only wearing a robe) and then veered off under the sofa.

If that mouse had chosen to dive under the terry cloth tent—eeeeee! Makes me tingle all over just to think of it.

Another time it appeared when I was just stepping out of the shower. I heard John shrieking downstairs so I quickly wrapped a towel around me and ran to save him. (Why do mice always catch me half dressed? What’s up with that?) We, and a not-yet-sleepy Baby Bandaids Nickel, barricaded off the shoe room in an effort to catch the poor trapped rodent and then, neck hairs a-raising, heavy shoes gripped tightly in our hands, we gingerly slid boxes and tins aside until—EEK!—the mouse streaked out of a corner, crashed into the barrier, leaped into the air and scurried off into another corner, John and I, thunking and yelling all the while and never once hitting the darn thing.

The second time the mouse made a run for it, John knocked down the barrier in his effort to get the mouse, and the little bugger zipped through my legs on its way to the washing machine. I spun around, walloping frantically, and though I thought my slipper once made contact with something soft, it got away.

Or so we thought.

This morning I noticed that it was kind of stinky over by my desk. I poked around a little but nothing was to be found.

As the stench grew stronger, it slowly dawned on me that it could only be one thing—a dead mouse. (So I did whack the thing after all! Hooray!)

With the smell intensifying by the second, I was left with no choice but to pull the fridge out from the wall.

With each tug on the fridge, the smell worsened, and when I saw wet spots on the tile floor I realized the dead mouse was indeed stuck underneath and was—how to put this delicately?—smearing every time I gave a tug.

I promptly called it quits and rang up my knight in muddy work boots.

“Are you serious?” he said. “You really want me to come home for this?”

“Um, yeah,” I whimpered. “It’s really bad. We can’t stay in the house. Please?”

And then, for extra pathetic points, “I feel like I’m going to throw up.”

So home he came to do the dirty deed.

He didn’t much complain about the stench—he’s way too tough for that—and instead got right to work jacking up the fridge on wooden blocks and dropping to his knees to investigate in his trademark, no-nonsense manner.

But when he went to scoop up the rotting mouse in a wad of newspapers,

a silhouette of John dry-heaving

he dry-heaved loudly and repeatedly, much to my raucous amusement.

A few minutes with the vacuum and a bucket of bleach water later, the job was done and my knight hopped into his white pick-up, put on his stunner shades, and took his leave.

So, to summarize:
1. I was kidding you when I said that mice and me are cool. I don’t know why I said that. In reality, mice give me the shiver-iver-ivers.
2. It’s really clean under my fridge right now.

The end.

This same time, years previous: strawberry ideas

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Questions and carrots

When I asked my son to vacuum the floor the other day, the roar of the vacuum must’ve loosened his tongue because, as he jerked the sucker-thingy back and forth across the kitchen tiles, this is what came out of his mouth:

“I have one question above all else: how did it all start?”

“How did we invent things?”

“How did people get started?”

“Is the Bible real or was it all made up by children?”

“Is God real?”

Then he switched from question spouting to whistling and I, having never made a single peep, scurried to my desk and jotted it all down.


Several days ago we had an awful morning that involved the three youngest in simultaneous meltdown mode. It was perfectly horrendous. As part of the rehabilitation plan, after rest time and lunch (note the reversed order), they were told they had to play together nicely for awhile before they could do anything else.

They decided to make cooked carrots with brown butter.

They made two batches. Skillets, tongs, saucepans, peelers, and little Beatrix Potter dishes were involved.

I have a feeling—for I did not supervise the merry mayhem—a splendidly excessive amount of butter was consumed.


And there you have it, two disjointed thoughts from the brain of a tired and disjointed mama. It's all I have to give, so it's all you're going to get.


This same time, years previous: chicken butchering, a cake for Wayne

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Deviating from my norm

When I started pinterest, I was kind of afraid that it would be a huge time suck and that I would sit around all day playing with my virtual bulletin boards.

And I did ... for about 24 hours.

But then I came up for air, forced myself to close the laptop, and started making art. Art that was inspired by—you guessed it—pinterest.

My little project is not quite done yet—I'll show it to you when it is—but I’m zipping right along and have a kink in my neck to prove it. (And I already have another idea brewing for when this first project is finished...)

It wasn’t just pinterest that inspired me—a lot of the blame gets laid squarely on Amanda of the infamous Soule Mama blog. I’ve been reading her for quite some time now and am impressed by how much art they make. Amanda’s little girl will say, “Mama, let’s make something,” and they promptly head into the sewing room and whip up a blanket.

I’m not going to be whipping up blankets anytime soon, but her obvious pleasure in making things inspired me to kick back and CREATE. I get so caught up in the chores and cooking and writing (you know, routines and habits, blah, blah, blah)—this little deviation from my norm has been delightfully refreshing.

It was a chain reaction, too: the older kids, inspired by my artistic dabblings, hauled the roll of newsprint downstairs and broke open a new box of markers.

Bandaids Nickel learned how to make bubble letters and typed on the computer, and Sweetsie (when she wasn’t on timeout for uncivilized rampages) hovered by my shoulder and alternated between whining and singing (that child!).

And so passed our sunny morning.

Where do you find inspiration? What art have you been making?

This same time, years previous: Aunt Valerie's blueberry bars, asparagus, goat cheese, and lemon pasta

Monday, May 23, 2011

Through my daughter's eyes

This is what my seven-year-old daughter sees when she looks at me.

Or at least it’s what she sees when I’m in a good mood because it’s a hot and sunny Sunday afternoon and I just finished planting the corn and am ready to start in on the beans and I’m feeling nice and benevolent which is illustrated by the fact that I let her hold the camera in the first place.

If I was grumpy, I wouldn’t be smiling, because I am not one of those mamas that smiles while grumpy. I totally got skipped when the DNA dude was handing out the hide-your-feelings gene.

Right before Sweetsie took the picture we had agreed that she could take one more picture. (She had already taken a picture of her sister sticking her tongue out at her [which, come to think of it, is probably a pretty accurate portrayal of what her sister looks like to her—tongue out, roll-y eyes, the works] and a picture of her papa leaning on a hoe.)

So she snapped that picture of me, but then she kept snapping, little bugger, and I had to move in to stop the clicking frenzy.

She immediately chopped off the top of my head.

And then she started giggling hysterically and badly blurred me.

Quick as a wink, she did it again.

And then I laid hands on the camera and rescued my image from further tainting.

I learned something though. I learned that my kids can take half decent pictures (when they’re not giggling) and that it’s kind of fun to see life on their level. I may have to try it again sometime.

But only when I’m in a good mood, of course.

This same time, years previous: chocolate-kissed chili, ranch dressing

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Savoring Saturday's sun

Yesterday’s sun was just what the doctor ordered.

*laundry on the line
*blossoming mock orange
*tomato plants galore
*my workman (he takes off his hands and stuffs them in his back pocket when he’s not working)
*readying the chicken tractor, thanks to a surprise gift of 29 2-pound chickens from our neighboring chicken farmer
*playmates and MP3 player novelty (the kids are growing up!)
*looking skyward, lots of yellow, green, and blue
*extended porch-sitting time

Of course the whole garden didn’t get planted, but we made a valiant effort. I was so exhausted that I opted for bed over my much anticipated rhubarb-rosemary daiquiri. Imagine!

How did you savor Saturday’s sun? Or, if the atmosphere didn’t provide any (I'm so very sorry), make some for yourself?

Friday, May 20, 2011

I've fallen hard and I don't want to get up

It rained all week.

I went a little crazy.

Tomorrow will be sunny and I’ll work in the garden all day long.

(Except for when I won’t, of course.)

My goal is to get the entire thing planted.

I'm so good at setting realistic goals for myself. It's one of my gifts.

But for now, for now I’m sunk deep into pinterest.

Yes, I took the plunge and I haven’t come up for air yet. I’m trusting the rush will fade, so I’m allowing myself to frisk about with wild abandon, and to all hours of the early morning, yes indeed.

It’s splendid fun (all questions can be answered here). I’d love for you to join me!

This same time, years previous: the boring blues (obviously, I didn't have pinterest), fowl-ness (a butchering tale)