May 12, 2016

A Fishy Tail

This year opening day for fishing was Mother's Day. (Of course it was.) As I was enjoying the lovely dinner Matt and Annie made in my honor, I noticed Matt was restless. He kept looking at his watch and glancing out the window at the lowering sun. Mid-bite it dawned on me.

"You want to go fishing!" 

He had been talking about it for weeks, but today was Mother's Day and he didn't want to disappoint me by taking off in the middle of dinner. I glanced at Annie. She would keep an eye on the kids.

"Come on! Let's go!" I said, grabbing him by the hand.

We live two minutes from the river and in flash I was settling down to watch on the grass near the water's edge. This really was a pretty spot. I could hear noisy birds, and the roar of water pouring over the small dam before rolling it's way over the rocks that extended into the middle of the river. The late day sun gave the newly-leafed trees a gorgeous green glow. The rocky river bottom could be seen through the tea-colored water and an occasional splash verified the presence of more than a few hungry fish. Matt waded in and made his first cast. Hopefully we'd have trout for dinner tomorrow.

Matt's shout alerted me he had indeed hooked something. That was fast! I ran to the car to grab the bucket. Any moment now we would have a trout or maybe a pike to bring home. I sat back down on the grass, bucket at my side, and waited.

An HOUR later I was still waiting. This was ridiculous. What on earth had he hooked? We still hadn't caught sight of the creature, but every time Matt reeled it in closer, it would suddenly take off pulling the line out behind it. The sun was getting closer to the horizon. We were going to lose light before long. He had to land this fish!

Suddenly the fish made for the rocks below the dam and for the first time we saw a sharp tail fin cut through the water's surface. Wait a minute. I knew that profile. These were the telling fins of a fish we had gathered many times to witness during spawning season. We loved these massive, magnificent, prehistoric-looking fish. Lake Sturgeon. Oh no! Matt had unintentionally hooked one! (They're not legal to keep.)

"Matt!" I called. "I think you got a sturgeon. You have to release it!"

Just then I heard a "snap" as the line broke. The fish settled into the shallows near the rocks. Matt waded over to remove the hook and rest of the line. As he grabbed hold to pull out the hook the giant fish executed what looked like an alligator death roll. From the shore all I could see was a massive amount of splashing. A moment later the fish swam off unharmed and Matt was carefully making his way back to me. It was difficult for him to see where he was putting his feet in the dusky light. I prayed he wouldn't fall in.

Poor man. All that work and he couldn't even keep his catch. He had so wanted to bring some fish home. I hoped he wasn't too disappointed. He wasn't. His hand was bruised and bleeding from a small cut, but he was grinning from ear to ear.

"Did you see the size of that thing?" he asked excitedly. "If he stood on his tail, he would have reached up to my shoulder! He must have been seventy pounds, at least! And all that on a six pound test line!"

We returned home that evening without a fish, without a photo, with the only proof of his catch - a Band-aid on his hand... But what a fish story!

.........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

I didn't have a camera when Matt went fishing, but here are a few photos taken last year when our family went to see the sturgeon spawning on the larger Wolf River. Hundreds turn out for this annual event.

What a good big brother.
Alex was keeping Mary from getting too close.










Do you see how tightly I was holding him? Joey wanted to "pet the fish."


  "I see them!"




The DNR catches,measures, and tags some of the sturgeon before releasing them. Huge crowds
gather to watch.



Smile Matt! Your turn will come.

December 31, 2015

A Penny's Worth

"Penny is acting weird," Mary reported. "I found her standing in the duck's water dish."

David immediately grabbed his jacket and headed out through the snow. No longer welcome in the chicken coop, Penny had been happily living with the ducks in the back pasture duck house. She had been doing well. She was a loved chicken with a special spot on a perch near the heat lamp and treats the kids brought her. I hoped she wasn't sick again.

"She's too cold. For some reason she's not staying near the heat." David brought her into the kitchen. Her feathers were puffed up and her comb looked ragged. She snuggled into his arms and promptly fell asleep.

David and I made a bed for her in a box down in the warm basement. We'd keep her inside until she looked better. She seemed to perk up when we brought her food and water. I figured in a day or two she'd be back out where she belonged.

Just before bed last night Dave went to check on her. He came back up in a rush. One look at his face and I knew what had happened. Penny was gone. The sad news quickly spread. The kids were heartbroken.

Does one mourn a chicken? Apparently, the answer is yes. We had indeed become attached to this little bird. She was a silly thing, who liked to sit on our front porch, peering in the windows, pecking at the glass for attention. Like a dog she followed the children around the yard, ever curious about what they were doing. A show off, she lorded her freedom over the other chickens, strutting around the outside of their fenced yard, eating grasses and bugs beyond their reach. And she loved my boy. She looked for David and always came to him to be petted.

It's funny the way some animals worm their way into our hearts. They each add something unique to the wonder of our world. They have value and worth. They are gifts from a God who loves us, and we are grateful.

Rest in Peace, Penny girl.





December 21, 2015

Small Town Connections

It was less than a week before Christmas and I was on the hunt. I scrolled through the online classifieds again, looking for a gently used washer and dryer. Mine were barely running. Which was ridiculous, really. I had only used them to run 2-3 loads per day for the last 13 years... Was nothing made to last anymore?

Oooh, there was a nice set, only a couple years old! The asking price was considerably higher than my meager budget would allow, but sometimes there was room to negotiate. It couldn't hurt to ask. I sent a message and waited for the reply. The response came quickly.

"Merry Christmas to you and your family! I totally understand hard times. I will accept your offer."

Wait. What? That was a yes?

A grin slowly spread over my face. Truly, in the grand scheme of things, failing laundry appliances are not so terrible, but in my day to day grind it certainly made things more difficult. A fully functioning laundry was one less thing to worry about. Yay!

That following day we went to pick up the appliances. Matt and Brendan loaded the machines into our van while the lady and I visited. She was really a very sweet person. I was delighted to find how much we held in common. We spoke about raising teenage boys, and we discovered we had mutual friends. How nice! Then she asked exactly where we lived. As I described our place a look came over her face.

"Do you mean you live on the big white house on the hill?"

So, she knew the one. "Yes," I replied, pleased I'd described the location well enough.

"That was my Aunt Emma's house!"

I had heard stories of Emma. She was our favorite neighbor's mom. I had heard what a faith-filled, prayerful woman she was. I'd heard how she loved the house in which we now lived, how she loved cooking, and gardening and how she was a sweetheart. It had always made me happy we lived in the former home of such a dear woman. And here I was speaking with Emma's niece (probably great-niece) about Emma's favorite view from our dining room window and about the yummy food she made out of our kitchen. This lady and I had met as strangers making a transaction. We left more as friends with a lovely connection.

We wished her and her family a very merry Christmas and headed home. I couldn't stop smiling.

I love small towns.

December 15, 2015

Masked Intruders

There was lotion smeared on the chair and on the blanket draped over the chair arm. There was a streak of lotion on the floor and covering the tops of a pair of shoes. There was even lotion on the dog.

I was confidant (fairly) that most people living in my house had matured beyond such antics. Of course I knew who the culprit was.

"Joseph Michael!"

His eyes peeked at me from under the table.

"Joey, who played with Annie's expensive lotion?"

I was giving him the chance to come clean.

"Lotion?" he asked with wide-eyed innocence. "What lotion?"

Taking his hand, I led him to the scene of the crime.

"This lotion."

"Oh" was his only response.

He was caught and he knew it. It was time to come clean, admittedly not an easy thing to do when your mama is staring you down, noticing for the first time your shirt front is slicked with small, lotion-y hand prints. His face was slightly shiny, too. Joey wiggled loose from my grasp. "He took a breath and confessed...

"It wasn't me."

I wasn't completely surprised. Where children were concerned, well, let's just say this wasn't my first rodeo. Inwardly, I laughed. Oh little boy. Your mama can see right through you. I decided to help him along.

"Joseph, look at the chair. Look at the dog. Now look at your shirt. No one else in this house would waste Annie's lotion and make a mess like this. Why don't you try again. Who got into the lotion?"

That did it. Even a four year old couldn't refute this logic. He'd been found out. The evidence was overwhelming. He had no option but to fess up.

I will never forget his next words.

"It was those raccoons!"


 

I had to leave the room.

As soon as I regained my composure, I returned, sent him to sit on the stairs for lying to mommy, spent some time talking about the danger of not telling the truth, and set him to cleaning up the mess.

I must say that was a first. Of course, I'll not tell him I was impressed by his 4-year-old creativity and that his daddy and I had a good laugh about it afterward. Come to think of it that excuse might help me out one of these days. If you arrive at my house and find it terribly messy, I now know who I can blame.




December 13, 2015

The Feet of a Mailman - Looking Back

How many miles? Seriously. If we could add them up, if there there had been a way to keep track, just how many miles had Papa's feet carried him? Enough to go across country? Enough to travel around the globe? Enough to get to the moon?

I used to wonder things like that. You see, my Papa has been a mailman for 36 years. 36! And it's true he drove parts of his routes, but the majority of his career entailed him pounding the sidewalks with his own two feet. Door to door... Box to box...

His career began by taking parts of other carrier's routes - naturally the worst parts. After this training period came his very own route, one he would carry for the next 24 years. He had two other routes during his career, the last of which included the Valley Plaza Mall, delivering to the stores - all indoors! This carried with it a most wonderful perk - Air Conditioning! I will explain why this was such a benefit in a moment.

I remember when he got the job all those years ago and wondering if that meant he would deliver mail to our neighborhood. (It didn't.)

I remember my mom teaching me to iron, and among the clothes I learned to iron, his uniform shirts. Sometimes, just for fun, I'd iron in military creases.

I remember him getting up at what I considered an ungodly hour to head off to his station to case the mail before starting his route.

Taken during Papa's lunch break
 left to right: my brother, Tim, my Papa, my sister, Bethany, and me
I remember going with my mom to bring him his lunch and how cool it was to see him in the middle of his day.


I remember occasionally running into people who lived on his route, how they greeted him like a friend and how he seemed genuinely glad to see them. Later he'd tell me, "That was Mr So-And-So. He lives at Such-And-Such an address. I was convinced he knew everyone's address by heart.


I remember when he became editor of the branch newsletter and the hours we spent each month folding, stapling, and labeling those newsletters prior to mailing. I also remember proudly reading his article "From the Editor-Guy" published each month. He is a fantastic writer!

I remember all these things, but what I remember most, though I never told him, is thinking about the beating his feet were taking.

My old hometown, Bakersfield, can get a little warm in the summer, in the same way my oven gets a little warm when I set it to broil at 600 °F.

Papa's feet, encased in heavy leather boots all day, must have felt like they were on fire as he walked for miles under the blazing sun, carrying a satchel of mail that weighed as much as a small child.
Sometimes when he came home he'd ask us to bring him a beer, and a pan of cold water into which he could plunge his aching feet. Then while sitting there, soaking his tired toes, he'd take a rag and black shoe polish and shine his boots up so they'd be ready for the next day.

Shiny or not, boots can only take so much before they give out, and his boots eventually had it. The sole had separated from the leather upper and flapped up and down with every step. New boots weren't cheap, and money was scarce. Papa was, after all, providing for his large family and he tended to put things like food, a house payment, and other such necessities ahead of new footwear for himself. What then was he to do?

Pop is a pretty resourceful guy. A fistful of rubber bands did the job admirably. Yes, they had to be replaced frequently, but they held his boot together for longer than he or my mom would like to remember. That rubber-banded boot cannot be entirely forgotten, however. There is a Letter Carrier group photo that clearly shows a lighter colored "something" wrapped around the dark boot of a young carrier who just happened to be in the front row.

He did eventually get a new pair of boots, and then another... One pair came to him in an unexpected manner. He was delivering mail to a trailer park when he noticed smoke coming from a laundry room. When he looked inside he saw flames coming from a plastic trash can (probably caused by a discarded cigarette) and no one else around to see what was happening. He immediately took action and to avoid burning his hands, kicked the can out of the building. His boot was covered in melted plastic. The laundry room wasn't damaged. No one was hurt. And the trailer park gratefully bought him a new pair of boots.

Despite the headaches and foot-aches that came with the job, he seemed to enjoy getting to know people on his routes. He would start conversations by saying, "I've got a dumb joke for you. Are you ready?"

He was always watchful of the elderly he delivered to, checking in on them to make sure they were doing alright.

He once gave aid to a baby who had managed to get the end of a metal hanger stuck in her mouth, piercing her tongue. She was bleeding profusely. Taking the baby from her frantic mother, he quickly pulled the hanger out and handed the little one back to her mom. The next day he heard the doctor said the baby would be fine.

He really did care for and take care of the people he served every day.

Every day for 36 years...

And now he is retiring. Now he will no longer have to pound his feet (and knees, and back...) for hours everyday. Now he starts something new.

And to him I have something important to say:



Thank you, Papa. 
Thank you for all those hours, all those years you gave to take care of us.
Thank you for choosing to have us kids instead of a BMW.
Thank you for working even when you were sick or sore, hot or cold.
Thank you for putting up with the hard parts of your job.
Thank you for encouraging us and teaching us to look for creative solutions to problems - even if it involved rubber bands.
Thank you for making sure we had food in our bellies, a roof over our heads, and a shoes on our feet.
Thank you for talking to us about life and teaching us how to look at both sides of an issue.
Thank you for taking us to church.
Thank you for trips to the beach, music in our house, and dogs in our life.
Thank you for showing us what hard work looks like.
Thank you for showing us what it means to take pride in your work and give it your all.
Thank you for being our Papa.
I love you.



Happy Retirement!!!

December 11, 2015

Prunes

My toes are all pruney. I could get out, but that requires... you know... moving.
Instead I allow myself to sink a little deeper, the water up to my nose. My bath is cooling and the bubbles are long gone. I nudge the hot water tap with my foot. All's quiet (relatively) in the rest of the house and the trickle of warm water descending noisily further blocks any sound from other rooms. There is no pressing need to abandon my little escape just yet.



It had been an interesting day. I was over an hour away from home and my brakes were making a horrible metal-on-metal grinding noise. It made me wince every time I stepped on the pedal. What if they gave out? Matt left work to come to my rescue. Once he arrived we swapped vehicles. Matt drove the car with the bad brakes and I followed behind in our van all the long way to Mechanic Steve's. Unfortunately, this repair would not be a cheap one. Our car was actually an old police cruiser and everything on it was of the heavy-duty, beefed up variety. Great for driving,  but not so much for replacing... At least we knew we were leaving it in good hands.

I dropped Matt back at his work and came home to a chilly house. Our wonderful outdoor boiler still worked beautifully, but one of the water pumps that carried hot water to the heat exchanger failed several days ago. Local shops were out of replacements and repair companies were swamped this time of year, so I attempted to do it myself, researching and ordering the new pump direct from the factory. I watched online videos showing how to complete the repair. It looked so easy!

The new part arrived and I tried to replace it, stripping the screw on the old water shut-off valve in my attempt to close it. I almost had it...The repairman finally arrived and replaced the pump, first installing a new shut-off valve. The old one so corroded, it was no wonder I couldn't get it to move.

By this time Matt had arrived home and began to refill the boiler and build the fire to heat the water. Soon our home would be warm again.

But it wasn't.

Everything seemed to be doing what it was supposed to do, yet cold air still poured from the heater vents. We had been without heat for almost five days. What was the trouble now? We finally concluded air was trapped in the pipes preventing the water from moving. More online searching and a couple of phone calls later and we learned how to bleed the air from the lines. Warmth once more poured into our home and children began to shed their jackets onto the floor and couches. I let that slide for now.

In the midst of lessons, meals and laundry, car and furnace repairs, and a houseful of energetic children, tension built up in in my neck and shoulders. It was time for a break... And bubbles.

Today's frustrations have melted away with the warm water. I'm grateful to let go of this day, to breathe, to pray, to count my many blessings. I'm also full of gratitude for a warm house and fingers that are as pruney as my toes.  God is good.




November 18, 2015

Not Quite Silver

We're getting there. It's now within sight. Matt and I are now one year away from our 25th wedding anniversary - our Silver Anniversary.


Funny. I thought we would feel like an old married couple by now. Despite the graying hair and dawning appreciation for early bird specials, I'm pretty sure we're still just a couple of kids.

We still hold hands. (Not just because I've misplaced my cane.)

We still dance in the kitchen. (We've learned to ignore the childrens' expressions of dismay.)

We still talk about running away together. (What can I say? We live with lunatics.)

We still irritate each other. (Only occasionally on purpose.)



We laugh (hard) at all the inside jokes we've accumulated along the way.

We'd still rather be together than not.






So... I guess we're stuck together...

Here's to another year, Babe! 






October 12, 2015

Most of Which Never Happened

David lowered his window a little further. It was a hot day, and without the air conditioner working the van felt like an oven. The chicken on his lap protested by smacking him in the face with her wing. David raised the window again, reducing the air blowing in Penny's face. He looked at me, exasperated, a trickle of sweat running down the side of his cheek. Dumb bird.

The trouble began when I found Penny near the raspberry bushes. She was holding her wings up slightly, away from her body. Her mouth was open and she appeared to be gasping. Isn't this what heat stress looks like in birds?

"David!"

All my children are good with our animals, but one of my 14-year-old sons has special skill with our chickens. His siblings teasingly call him "The Chicken Whisperer." David can quickly catch an escapee who has flown the coop. He notices discord among the hens before anyone else and heads off trouble by bringing a treat to distract the girls. Even a broody hen fusses less if  Dave is the one disturbing her nest. His help was just what I needed now.

Penny and David having a conversation.
I set up a small cage for Penny in a shady spot while David got a water dish and a bowl of ice to set beside her. Her breathing was labored and her feet were almost too hot to touch. Not good signs. She drank a little water and settled down near the ice. Hopefully she would cool down fast. Dave promised to keep an eye on her so I could get back to lessons with Mary.

A short time later Penny had indeed cooled and seemed more alert, but something still wasn't right.  Her beak was still open and her breathing sounded hoarse and wheezing. Do chickens get asthma? Great. Just one more reason our family was "special."

"Have you met that family? You know, the one with the pet asthmatic chicken?"

Those of you that know me, know I'm a worrier. I try not to be. I really do, but...
  • How do I know that headache isn't really a brain tumor?
  • The car makes a little noise? It's going to break down and we'll be stranded in the middle of nowhere!
  • The weather looks a little stormy? What if the weatherman lied and that little rain shower suddenly turns into an EF5 Tornado?
  •  I haven't seen one of my children for a few moments (at home, no less) and they've run away with gypsies straight out of an old movie, will be trained to play an organ grinder for a little hat-wearing monkey on a leash, earning change on street corners, wishing I had been a better mother to them and warned them that this was no way to make a living. 

Yeah. It's fun living in my head.

So there I am, driving to the vet's office with David in the seat beside me, holding a chicken on his lap. I'm sure I told Dave Penny would be fine, all the while thinking,

"What if it's not asthma? What if Penny has bird flu and it spreads to the whole flock - chickens and ducks alike? What if we have to put down all of our birds, and we get sick, too, and our tiny farm is quarantined, but it's too late, and it spreads to other farms, and everyone will blame us and no one will like us anymore, and we'll have to move to Alaska where no one knows us? Also, how much will the vet charge us today?"



The vet was less concerned. "Penny has a mild respiratory infection," he reassured us. "Give her this antibiotic and she'll recover within a few days."

I'm so glad. Penny, smallest of our laying hens, is a favorite of the family. She was severely wounded by the other hens (Pecking order is a real thing!) and had to be separated from them permanently, removed from the coop and chicken yard, and freed to wander where she will. She likes to sit on our porch, peering into our window, waiting for someone to come out and give her attention or a treat. She actually likes to be held and petted, and comes running when she hears our voices. Now that the antibiotics have made her eggs inedible, she has truly gained pet status - strictly a companion chicken. Yes, we really are that family.

 I rarely voice my worries. choosing not to give them more power and instead entrust all to Jesus. And I do hope to one day conquer them. Until then... a sense of humor helps, gives me something to blog about and you something to read. You're welcome.



October 6, 2015

Don't Touch My Bat

This afternoon, Annie purchased a rubber Halloween bat. It wore a goofy expression on its little batty face, and sported a nifty elastic cord attached to the back of its neck for hanging.  I think she was planning to hang it from the dining room light fixture as a Halloween decoration. I hope she enjoyed the thought, because she never got the chance to hang it anywhere. In fact, the last time she even touched the bat was when she placed it onto the store counter before the clerk bagged it. 


Joey found the bat.  Annie was busy pulling other purchases from the bag and didn’t notice Joey grabbing it with a delighted grin. His big sister brings him the neatest stuff!


There’s a chance Annie noticed Joe running around the table, making the rubbery, black wings swoop up and down. She may have noticed him having a conversation with the bat. She definitely noticed he was introducing the bat to everyone. 


“This is my bat. His name is Joey.”


Annie looked at me.  “His bat? Mom? Did I just lose my bat?”

I merely raised my eyebrow at her. “Well…”


Both of us watched Joey-the-boy pretend to feed Joey-the-bat some of his apple.

“Mom! Did you know my bat is a fruit bat?” Joe smiled contentedly.


Joe continued to play with his bat all through dinner and afterward, as I was getting the coffee pot set up for the morning, I looked down to see this:





“He broke his wing and I fixed it, and he’s sleeping now. See? I covered him so he’ll stay warm.”


Well, okay then.


The family gathered on the couches to watch Mountain Men (a favorite show), and a sleepy little Joey with drooping eyelids curled up between Mary and Annie. There are few things that pull at my heart-strings like a sleepy little one. I would have scooped him up and snuggled him to sleep, but his oldest sister was closer. “Annie, look at Joe,” I whispered.

She extended a hand and stroked his forehead, smiling down at him as his eyes began to close. He was almost out. Then, eyes still closed, he extended his hand and in a quiet voice warned her,


“Don’t. Touch. My Bat.”


So, Annie, have you lost your bat? 

Yes. Yes, you have.



December 24, 2014

Fighting Despair

Overheard while driving through town; my oldest (and apparently hungry) son by my side...

"Each time we drive past the Chinese Buffet I feel a tiny flutter of hope."


December 18, 2014

Out Of Nowhere

A hairsbreadth. A fraction of an inch. As near a miss as I've ever had.
One moment the road was clear, and the next...

Stupid deer.
The good news is my brakes work.



I can still see the hind legs of the huge buck as he passed my headlights with no room to spare. It all happened so fast. I know Annie shouted the warning, "Deer!" I know I hit the brakes without waiting to spot the animal for myself. And still, I'm completely amazed we didn't hit it.

"Thank you, God. Thank You, thank You, thank You...", I continued to murmur under my breath as my imagination took me down the road of what nearly happened.

Time to pull up some 'Deer Crossing' signs.



Earlier suspicions confirmed, our deer have a death wish. Before going anywhere, we always pray for safe trip with a prayer my mother taught me as child:
Our Lady of the Highway,
be with us on our journey,
for all thy ways are beautiful,
and all thy paths are peace.
Amen.

Since living here we have added this prayer taught by Annie's Confirmation teacher:
Dear Lord,
Please keep
the deer in the ditch,
and the car on the road.
Thank You.
Amen.
I'm so glad Our Lord is listening.


November 23, 2014

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

"Is it out?"
The hairdryer switched off and inquisitive fingers ran through the length of my hair.
"Nope."
Leaning over the tub I carefully wet and lathered my hair for the third, and probably not last, time.

I confess, I love to have my hair touched. I do. I love it so much, on my birthday my daughters offer to brush my hair as a present. 
I love it so much I have endured countless braids, 
funky hairdos, and tangles as the only "patron" of nine-year-old Mary's Beauty Shop, just to have my hair played with. 

If I am ever full of stress and tension, rub my hair and I will actually melt before your eyes. Melt. No more stress, just me, eyes closed, slumped over, unable to speak anything more complex than monosyllables, swiftly falling asleep. 
Weird, but true.  

Joseph sat next to me on the couch, running a thick lock of my hair through his little toddler hands. He wasn't pulling or tangling, just running it through his hands. 

"Your hair is pretty, Mama. I'm making your hair beautiful."

"Mmhmm..." I replied suddenly feeling rather sleepy.

"Beautiful. Beautiful." Joey continued.

"Mmhmm..." I murmured again. Someone should bring me a pillow.

Wait a minute. My ears had detected a noise, a quiet noise, an odd noise, a slightly wet, smacking noise that was not the sort of noise that clean, dry hair makes when it is run through clean, dry hands.  The realization that something was wrong seeped into my drowsy brain. 

I lifted my hand to my hair and encountered a wide streak of something terribly sticky. Joey's fists were full of a thick, white paste that I knew all too well. Diaper ointment. The white stuff. The greasy, white stuff that not only doesn't wipe off easily, but laughs - actually laughs - at soap and water. I didn't even know we had any.  

"I make-d your hair so beautiful, Mama." Joey said in a sweet voice.

Yes, beautiful, and white, and stuck in a thick clump to the side of my head. 

You know those moments when something unexpected happens and you truly appreciate just how ...unique... living with little ones is? It's like the times you find yourself stringing together words you didn't know could exist in the same sentence.

"Don't lick shopping carts."
"The cat doesn't want your gum."
"Your dinosaur doesn't need a bubble bath."
"Nice little boys don't shout 'booger' in church."
"Your brother doesn't like you dancing on his head."
"We don't rub diaper ointment into Mommy's hair."

I was having one of those moments. Yes, I was. 

I was also lathering my hair for the fourth time...



November 17, 2014

Smarshmallow Run

Annie was helping Joe wash his hands before dinner. His tiny fingers more intent on splashing water out of the sink than removing any actual dirt, when he leaned his face towards hers and in a conspiratorial whisper said,

"Okay, so, we gonna get the keys, and you get into the driver's seat, then we drive away quietly. Deal?"


Annie turned the water off and grabbed a towel.

"What? Why???" 

She looked at this little person standing on the step stool before her with an intent look in his eyes. 

"Because, Annie!" he exclaimed, waving his hands in the air. "We need to drive away quietly. Okay? Deal?"

Annie shared this with me as I dished up the plates. I glanced over at my little boy. Joey was now standing on his chair trying to reach the lit candle on the table.

"Joey, don't touch that!"


He stopped and looked at me.

"Joe, are you planning to drive away?" I asked, not sure he would want to fill me in on his sneaky plan.

He didn't even hesitate.

"Yes! I'm going to drive to the Smarshmallow Store and buy smarshmallows and we will eat them! Everyone can get in the van and sit in dere own seats and put on dere own seatbelts, and we can go get smarshmallows. Then we can build a smarshmallow house, and a smarshmallow car with smarshmallow wheels... and everything!"


Oh my. I think I need to hide the keys.





September 9, 2014

Meet the Girls



I smiled to myself as I lugged the heavy metal bucket from one pen to another. Farm chores! I was doing farm chores! If my neighbors knew how giddy I felt, they'd never stop rolling their eyes at me. I felt like a little kid at play, only this was real. With a feeling of satisfaction I scooped feed from the bucket to pour into the hanging feeder. The chickens ran out into their yard, clucking a greeting as they came. I tossed a scoop of feed into the ground. They hurried to the spot and immediately began scratching and pecking at the food.


The sun was just peeking over the rise, making the dew on the grass sparkle. I indulged myself for a moment and took a seat on a log near the chicken yard. The chickens left the feed on the ground and crowded the fence near me, talking to me through the wire. I plucked some blades of grass and pushed them through the fence. They shoved each other out of the way in attempts to reach the green stuff and pulled one blade at a time from my fingers. I held a conversation of sorts with the chickens. We clucked back and forth to each other and I was delighted to see if I called one by name, that hen would raise her head and peer at me with a curious look. Was it my imagination or did they really know their names? 


May I introduce the girls: 
Henrietta
Ruby
Tansy
Blondie
Penny 
and 
Clementine
This photo cracks me up. They look shocked to have their picture taken.

When we picked them out from a large metal tub at the feed store they were tiny fuzzballs that could fit in the palm of my hand. They spent the first few weeks on our back porch in a brooder box, where they were warm and we could keep an eye on them. This being our first experience at raising fowl, we weren't at all sure what it would be like. I had no idea just how charming they would be or how quickly I would become attached. 

They were handled often and would even hop into our hands when we reached into their box. David discovered that placing a little chick on her back and rubbing her feet seemed to put her into a trance. Blondie loved it so much she would close her eyes and go limp the moment he picked her up. 



I enjoyed watching them grow, each with her own personality. Henrietta and Clementine were bossy and the two of them took turns being top chick. To this day I'm still not sure which of the two is really in charge. 
Penny was the smallest, but super fast. She now zooms about snagging the best treats before the others can reach them. Blondie was a sweetheart. Today, she is the most likely to run up to me to peck at my shoes. Tansy was much more stand-offish. She still doesn't like to be touched.

And then there was Ruby. Ruby was an odd bird. She would stand in the corner pecking at the wall. She's still a bit of a goof.


My Ruby.

They quickly outgrew the brooder and Matt set about building them a safe, sturdy coop and yard. They made themselves at home and a couple of months later I can now look forward to these each morning:



Eggs! Beautiful, fresh, brown eggs! It's like finding treasure - every morning!

I  always wanted to raise chickens. The very idea brought back strong memories of being a little girl visiting my grandparents' farm. How I loved helping my Grandma Neta feed the hens and collect the eggs. Now, all these years later, I have the joy of raising these marvelous birds in my own backyard. I cherish the thought of taking after my Grandma and think of her often when I'm out at the coop. Chickens at last! And I'm enjoying every moment of it.

Blondie still likes to be held.







July 8, 2014

Celebrating the Fourth

 Independence Day Celebration 
Cold Anchor Farm style


I love our giant flag! It seems I'm not the only one. People driving by honked horns and waved. It made me smile.


The inside of our house was glowing red, white, and blue.


 What a great backdrop for a family photo!




 Maybe we should've cleaned up a bit first, seeing how we were all pretty scruffy from playing outside all day. I guess this a very 'real' family photo.


 ...and this one.



 ...and, well, you get the idea.




 At least Joey looked cute.



 A good time was had by all.


 The local fireworks show was so much fun. We then headed home where we sat around a campfire and made s'mores and lit little firecrackers and tiny sparkling fountains of our own. 
We said prayers and the kids settled into sleeping bags in the tent we set up in the backyard. Matt caught a firefly and brought it into the tent to show the children. It was so cool to see their little hands and faces lit up by that tiny glowing creature.
The firefly was released, children tucked back in, and Matt and I sat by the fire, enjoying the warm night air while the kids drifted off to sleep. It had been a wonderful day.

I hope your 4th of July was a happy one!

June 30, 2014

Small-Mindedness

I should be getting up now. I should begin the day's chores, but my chair is so comfy. My coffee is still almost warm-ish. The windows are open and the curtains are billowing with the fresh morning air. We are expecting stormy weather later, but things are quiet now.

I've come to appreciate "now." These past few months (a year?) have been full of ups and downs as we make the transition from military life to civilian. The roller coaster ride is not over yet, and if I think too far ahead it can be overwhelming. I can, however, handle "now" - this moment right now.

It's been wonderful to have Matt home to stay and we settled into our new normal almost immediately. That is the up. The down is the hunt for a job that will support our family and the struggle to... you know... pay bills and stuff. It's easy to borrow trouble and worry about things I can't control. Trust in God is day to day, moment by moment. 
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." -Philippians 4:6


Sometimes the big picture is just too big...











I have become ever more mindful of the small things - finding beauty, comfort and gratitude in discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary. God is good.