January 31, 2012

Frozen Pipes and Beef Jerky

Ugh. The pipe that supplies the washing machine is frozen - again.

I suppose I could use that as a legitimate excuse for not doing laundry, but being that I haven't caught up on all the laundry that accumulated while we were sick - burying the laundry room, covering bathroom floors, kicked under children's beds... Well, let's just say I'm not sure we could go more than a day without washing at least a load or two,  lest my children go naked.

Naked? Oh, could we, please?

Okay. That's an exaggeration. They wouldn't necessarily be naked. I'm sure they could find something to wear, although, taking the kids grocery shopping draped in tablecloths, or better yet, random items from the box of dress-up, might raise a few eyebrows.

We're ready to go, Mom.
So, I'll warm the pipe, thaw it out, try once again to better insulate it, and get that washer going.

Thank God it has been a milder winter. It's given us the chance to find and fix the trouble spots in our farmhouse before we have to face the kind of winter old-timers gleefully describe to newbies just to watch their jaws drop.

(This should be read with a slightly wavering, high pitched, old person voice.) "Why, I remember a winter so cold we had to bring the cows into the house to thaw them out before we could milk them. Of course all they gave that winter was ice cream..."

There is another reason to be thankful for milder weather. We are still learning the ins and outs of keeping our house heated with one of these:

Isn't it beautiful?.

We encountered them only after moving here. The first time I saw smoke billowing out of one I thought someone's shed was on fire. After driving past several other houses with these smoking sheds and a complete absence of firetrucks, or at the very least alarmed people running around with garden hoses and water buckets, we realized they were smoking on purpose.

Our next theory? Everyone around here owned their own smokehouse. You know, for smoking meats? "Maybe folks around here just can't get enough beef jerky." An excusable theory to be sure because, and I say this with all love, you know how some people are... in Wisconsin.

Well, it turned out they were not smokehouses after all, but outdoor wood furnaces. Holy smokes, Batman!

See. Wood goes in here and gets all burned up.

If only we had marshmallows.

This heats up water that surrounds the firebox. The hot water hurries through an underground pipe to our basement where it runs into a heat exchanger thingy. Then a giant fan pushes all that lovely heat through vents all over our house making us nice and toasty. I know!

If my overly technical explanation has gone over your head, and you are still a little fuzzy on the whole thing, you can follow this little link here to the website of one company that makes these wood furnaces. They have pictures, too.

How do we like it so far? Being that I personally don't go out very often to chop wood, nor venture out to load the furnace with said wood in the morning and again just before bed, well, I love it! Most of the time the job falls to Matt and Annie. Neither of them complain about it, and Annie loves to tell me how much more wood she can lift now compared with when we first bought the thing. All in all, we are pleased.

Our one true disappointment? You can't make beef jerky in it. Not to worry. Just this evening I caught Matt drawing out plans to build his very own smokehouse.

Don't let Frank hear you!

Keep warm, my friends!

January 27, 2012

Country Characters

Characters. Small towns are full of them and our small town is tiny enough to have characters in abundance.

I just happened to glance out the window as I passed by. What I beheld outside stopped me in my tracks. Frank (His name has been changed to protect his identity. I don't know if he reads my blog!) was standing in the middle of the road staring at the car stopped before him. I wondered briefly if he had been drinking. I could tell he wanted to walk past the vehicle, but every time he tried, the car moved to block him. Frank moved left, the car moved left. Frank moved to the right, and the car did the same. He backed up, the car inched it's way toward him.

"What in the world?" I exclaimed. Hearing me, the children gathered at the window, voicing their questions and concerns, everyone speaking at once.

"Mom, what is Frank doing in the road?"
"Is that car trying to run him over?"
"Nah! Frank's too big. The car would be totaled."
"Frank's making his move! He's going for the fence!"
"I didn't know Frank could jump, did you?"
"He can't do it. The fence is too high."
"I can't look."
"He did it! He's over!"
"No, wait! He's down! Frank fell."
"He can't get up. Is his leg broken?"
"Oh no! Poor Frank."
"This is awful!"

Frank was indeed down. He'd landed hard on his side, legs flailing in the air - all four of them. Did I forget to mention that Frank is a steer? Well he is. Was. Is. I think... I haven't seen him today. Anyway...

With great relief, we watched Frank heave himself up and to his feet, uh, hooves. He took a few hesitant steps then stopped to shoot an indignant look at the farmer who was just getting out of his car. How had he escaped this time? The farmer seemed to be thinking the same thing and began to walk the fence line, looking for a break. Frank stood his ground, continuing to give the farmer dirty looks.

Tired of all the attitude, the farmer waved his arms and shouted at the naughty steer. Frank took off, prancing up the field, nose in the air, apparently mocking the poor farmer.

"You didn't foil my escape plans. I wanted to come back. So there!"

The fence was fixed and a few minutes later we watched the rest of the herd enter the field from the gate closest to the barn. Seeing Frank they rushed toward him, but as they drew near lost courage and began to thin out, reaching him not as a group, but rather in a single file line. Frank's nose was still in the air.

Not sure if Frank was in a talking mood, the beast nearest him began by clearing his throat.

"Ahem. Umm... Hey, Frank. Soooo, how's it goin'? Ummm... I see you're still here. Me and the boys were just wondering if you were planning to head out again... later."

Frank didn't so much as twitch his tail. Uncertain how to continue, the steer standing nearest turned to the others behind him.

"He's not talkin'. Now what?"

Frank had had enough of such foolishness. Attempting to preserve what was left of his dignity, he lowered his head and charged the steer who had the nerve to speak to him. The entire herd (sans Frank) ran back to the gate as quickly as they could, begging the farmer to let them back into the barn. Frank, with the field all to himself again, turned his back on them. What was going through his mind after that we may never know. He remained silent for the rest of the afternoon.

Of course, I am of the opinion he used that time to plot his next escape.

Only time will tell...

by Gary Larson

January 16, 2012

Shootout At the Sci-Fi Corral

I dusted myself off and checked my hat for holes. Nope, nary a one. I was still standing - surprised, but unscathed.

It happened so fast. "So, what church do you go to?" my questioner asked while assuming the pose of an Old West gunslinger, fingers twitching, poised for the fast draw. Thoroughly, unashamedly, joyfully Catholic, I answered simply and with a smile, "St. Mary's."

At that moment the town clock struck noon - high noon. A tumble weed blew by. Where was that funky music coming from? Oo-ay-oo-ay-oooo, wah, wah, wah!

Before I could react the sincere soul before me unloaded both barrels. Scripture verses near and dear to my heart whizzed by my head in rapid succession. Apparently this verse-slinger packed a machine gun in place of a revolver. Without a pause for breath or letting me get a word in edgewise, the barrage continued.

"Peter was a big sinner - there was nothing special about Mary - you worship idols - and your spurs don't jingle like mine!"

My turn finally came.

"I love St Peter. If Mary was good enough for Jesus, she's good enough for you and me. I most certainly do not worship idols. And I'm not wearing spurs. They annoy my horse."

I doubt any of that was heard. Probably believing I was mortally wounded, my shooter quickly moved on to other targets. A quote from the late Bishop Fulton Sheen crossed my mind.

"There are not a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church....As a matter of fact, if we Catholics believed all of the untruths and lies which were said against the Church, we probably would hate the Church a thousand times more than they do."

Well said, Bishop! There is a ton of misinformation out there! Disagree with me if you'd like, but at least disagree with what I really believe. Of course, I might be tempted to put it more along the lines of another quote that suddenly popped into my head.

"If we’re going to be damned, let’s be damned for what we really are!"

So, who said that one? The (slightly embarrassing) answer - Captain Jean Luc Picard of the starship Enterprise. Yeah. I know. My geek is showing.

Perhaps the next time I encounter my new friend I will actually be able to hold a two-sided conversation. That would be nice. I'd hate to have to stun 'em with my phaser.

January 15, 2012

Words That Should NOT Go Together

Baby Joseph



I repeat, those words should NOT go together... ever.

There should be a law.

January 13, 2012

Are We There Yet?

I'm linking to a post from one of my very favorite bloggy friends. Read this and you'll see why.

...And Tired

Sick. Sick and tired of being sick. Yes, sir. That's what I am.

And that's what we are... again.

I don't think we have ever had so many illnesses in such a short period of time. Since moving in we have had Strep Throat, Whooping Cough, Strep Throat - again, stomach flu, and now a nasty, nasty cold. Sore throat, cough, headache, fever... The poor baby has had a fever for days and holding him in my arms feels like I'm hugging a hot water bottle to my chest. Back when I said I hoped we wouldn't catch the plague, I was just kidding. Now, I'm not so sure it's a joke.

The doctor sent us away saying I was doing everything that should be done, and apparently I knew what I was doing, "so go home and keep doing it." Fine.

To top it all off, I seem to have caught new-mom-itis. I didn't think I could catch that after having six kids, but it seems this special malady can strike even those of us that are old hands at the mom business. I guess I can add that to the list.

(By the way, did you notice what I just did there? If you are an old hand at the mom business I just lumped you in with me. It made me feel better. Thank you for making me feel better.)

January 10, 2012

So Very Six

I love six-year-olds. And of all the six-year-olds I have had, Mary is the most six-ish.

Hey Mom, did you know I can play really bad sounding music on the piano? Wanna hear?

I love to eat sushi! I just don't like the way it tastes.

Achoo! Oh darn! (said with great exasperation) Now there's snot all over it. I'll have to start over.

I like to talk about cute, fuzzy animals, 'cause they're not just cute - they're cute and fuzzy.

Want to see a dance I can do? When I was born I didn't know how to dance.  I still don't know how to.

I love you, Mom.

I love you too, Mary, more than you could know.

January 7, 2012

Can Anyone Hear Me?

I have a confession to make. Sometimes I yell at my children.

It's not name-calling yelling, but I'm-just-trying-to-be-heard yelling. And I hate it. Not that it does me any good. My children have selective hearing. Don't believe me? Try this:

In a loud, clear voice say, "Someone, let the dogs out!" Not a head turned. Try again, louder this time. "The dogs need to potty. Let them out!" See that? No one even flinched.

Now, hide your mouth behind your hand. Lean in close to me and whisper softly, as though you don't even want me to hear you, the words "ice cream".

Congratulations. You have just triggered a child stampede. Watch as they come pouring in from rooms all over the house, tromping down the stairs, shoving each other in their mad dash, crashing into one another as they attempt to skid to a stop before you. "Did you call us? I thought I heard the words 'ice cream'. Did someone say 'ice cream'? Are we having dessert?"

I often remind my children about right-away-obedience. We have discussed the fact that the correct response when called is not "What?", but "Coming!" It's getting their attention in the first place that I seem to have trouble with. I suppose I could randomly interject attention grabbing words into each request.

"Someone, candy bar, needs to, video game, let the dogs out, recess!"

Their Daddy Boats, ever the navy man, is quite skilled with his boatswain's pipe. In the morning he stands at the foot of the stairs and pipes the children awake. A few notes on the pipe and a shout of "Reveille, reveille! All hands heave out and trice up! Reveille!" works wonders. To my constant amazement the kids are out of bed and downstairs in moments. Well, Annie doesn't jump up quite as fast as the boys do, but after a groggy complaint or two, even she makes an appearance.

I bet I could learn to use the boatswain's pipe. I just have to find it. "Does anyone know where Daddy's pipe is? Hello! Anyone? Hellooo! Guys, where are you?... Ice cream!"

January 3, 2012

Game On

Last night several of us felt well enough for a game of Uno. That's really saying something. Games in this house are rarely sedate events. After several days of laying around there was an abundance of silliness that simply had to get out.

What's the Spanish word for uno?
Oh. That works?
(more laughter)

Cool! You dealt me a bunch of power-ups!
Dude, power-ups are for video games. These are cards!

Remind me to play poker with you later.
(on seeing Annie's face light up when she looked at her cards)

I think he's cheating!
No I'm not! Who cheats at Uno?!?
(a chorus of voices) I do!

For your viewing pleasure - a few seconds of game night in our house:

January 1, 2012

Armchair Reflections

I had been sitting there for hours. The sun, just rising, hit me square in the face with its obnoxious glare, emphasizing the dark circles under my eyes. I was a vision of loveliness to be sure. Dressed in sweatpants and one of my husband's t-shirts (because all of mine were still wet in the washer), bath towel draped over my lap, my hair was a mess and I smelled faintly of vomit.

The vomit wasn't even mine. It belonged to the tiny boy sleeping fitfully in my arms. My neck and shoulders were aching, but I was afraid to move and wake him.

We'd had quite a night. Older children got sick in buckets placed near their beds, but baby Joey vomited with abandon and without warning of any kind. He covered several of my shirts, his jammies, sheets, blanket, the floor... and that thing all the way over there across the room. Who knew sick could travel so far?

Of course, I didn't really care about all of that. My biggest concern was making sure my sick little baby was cared for and comforted. If that meant a sleepless night, smelling of vomit, holding his precious weight until my arms felt like they were going to fall off, then so be it.

I peered at the Christmas tree, dark and quiet in the corner. Paper chains still hung festively from the windows. Glittery snowflakes dangled from the light fixture over the dining table. Gold stars stood silent watch atop the piano. What had happened to the idyllic Christmas I envisioned? Everything had started out well; but let's face it, the disheveled woman sitting in her living room, holding her sick baby, wrapped in a towel, hardly looked Christmas card perfect.

I glanced at the Nativity scene, and through the fog of my sleep deprived brain flashed an image of the birth of Our Lord very different from the pretty, sanitized version displayed on my table. It occurred to me that the real Nativity probably didn't look Christmas card perfect either. If cameras existed back then we most likely would've photo-shopped the dickens out of any images taken in that stable. I'm sure St. Joseph did the very best he could, but I imagine the animals that sheltered there didn't stop being smelly animals just 'cause the Christ Child was born in their midst.

Life on earth is messy. Such was His love for us that he deigned enter the mess in order to lift us out of it. He was willing to become one of us, truly one of us. The Eternal stepped into time in order to bring us to eternity. The mess and the stink weren’t His doing, but ours. Nevertheless; He didn’t shrink from us, but became like us to bring us the healing we so desperately needed.

Joey and I stayed in that chair for a while longer. Neither of us smelled any better, but I was more at peace… except for that queasiness beginning to take hold of me. Oh dear. Maybe next year our Christmas will be a little more “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”, and a little less “Eww! Where’s the air freshener?”