Wednesday, December 16, 2009

tattoos and handguns

Today is Baby Boy #2's eighteenth birthday. He wants to spend the day getting a tattoo and buying a handgun. He's been asking for both since he was sixteen and I've put him off as long as I legally can.

This should come as no surprise to me since he is facing the occasion like he has faced all other occasions in his life, with tenacity and determination. A character quality I quite admire but often find hard to keep up with.

From the moment he decided his exodus from my womb was at hand, he hurtled himself feet first into this world in a one hour rocket speed labor and delivery process unlike any the nurses had ever seen, scoring a ten on his AP GAR and thus embarking on his quest for adventure and achievement.

Affectionately known as the "Over Achiever" by Baby Girl #1, he has always strived for good grades and self education, often reading owner's manuals 'just for fun'. At the age of three he carefully crafted a fearless swordfish sculpture out of scrap lumber and meticulously nailed each tiny piece twelve times to our front deck. When he was five, he showed a rabbit in 4-H and came within 3 points of beating out an eighteen year old to become Grand Champion in Showmanship. When he entered school halfway through the first grade he was so far ahead of the other students that the teacher had him up front helping her teach the class. And, when the year finally arrived that he could legally hunt dear on his own, he bagged his buck by noon on opening day. Before he had his license he asked me to drive him around to all the banks to find out who had the best interest rate on CD's because he had $1000.00 he wanted to invest. He owns his own truck and skillfully parks it in one easy snow donut maneuver that causes it to come to rest in exactly the right spot.

Baby Boy #2 has been to Guyana to build a church, Guatemala to build an orphanage and Canada to catch monstrous fish, he has been to the Alamo and Dodger Field. He has climbed a volcano, had bears in his camp, fed candy to 400 orphans and witnessed poverty beyond imagination.

In his eighteen years so far on this earth he has made the most of nearly every moment, living a life that is rich in memories, accomplishments and lessons. A life that has been filled with forethought and purpose. It should therefore come as no surprise to me that as he stands at the threshold of manhood, tattoos and handguns are first on his list. After all, he's been trying to prepare me for two years!

Happy eighteenth birthday Max! You have brought much joy to all our lives and you taught me that love is not divided by two, it is multiplied.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Adventures of Gizmo, Part I

We received the call one sunny morning in September, 2000. All the kids were at school except Baby Boy #4. As kindergarten schedules go, it was his day off. The voice on the other end of the line said with boldness, "We've gotten in a small dog and I see here you are looking for one." "What kind?" I asked. "An Apricot Poodle." came the reply. "I don't want a Poodle, but I'll come and look at him." I said as I thought to myself, what kind of answer is that? If you don't want him, why are you going to look at him? Ugh, I thought, but the confidence in her voice made me unable to say no, as usual. "Coward." I said to myself.

My knowledge of Poodles was limited but my experiences had been of snappy, snarly, yapping, lap dogs, with drainage stained fur around the mouth and eyes. Wheezy, gurgling, panting breath coming in fits of protective rage. All bark with a lot of bite.

As Baby Boy #4 and I headed to the animal shelter I wisely instructed him that he would sit in the waiting room while I looked at this dog and if I thought it was safe, I would come and get him so he could see the dog as well. As is par for my life, I make plans forgetting I'm not the director.

Upon our arrival I seated #4 and headed down the long corridor with the animal control officer. Turning left, then right, then left again, we passed through three different doorways until we finally arrived at the dog pens. I began to question whether it was so wise to have left five year old #4 out there all by himself. We stopped at a cage and I looked down in shock at what I saw. If this was a Poodle, it was unlike any I had ever seen, and didn't they say he was apricot? I searched for his eyes hoping to get a feel for his personality but they were no where to be seen under his filthy, matted, brown dreadlocks. His fur was encrusted with dirt and grime, twigs and leaves, woven in and twisted together as if some sort of Reggae Art. Wind, rain, snow and dirt had taken their toll on his unkempt six to eight inch long locks until they had curled and spiraled into an official dreadlock hairdo. "Rasta", I thought to myself.

Before I had a chance to speak, the officer unlocked the pen and little Rasta shot out of there like a bolt of lightning. Turning right, then left, then right again he ran down the hall like a dog after a tenderloin with me right on his heels. "My baby!", I thought to myself, panic stricken that he would get to #4 before I could. All things horrific I can imagine in my mind such as "Child Mauled by Poodle" being tomorrow's headlines. This special gift must only be given to mothers as my husband never seems to experience this phenomenon.

What I saw as I rounded the last corner was something far beyond my imagination. Rasta Poodle dove for #4, landed in his lap and proceeded to lick him all over the face causing giggle fits to erupt from my little darling. I turned to the officer and said, "I guess we've got a Poodle.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Falling Down, Again

Maybe it's gremlins or cats play, maybe it's big gusts of wind or just plain old misfortune. Whatever the reason, another large stack of wood has come crashing to the ground with a thunderous roar loud enough to hurtle me from my seat with fright. Never in the history of all our wood cutting have our wood piles collapsed and now twice in one season they have violently protested their linear positions.

With some help from baby #4, we reassembled in no time, all the while joking and wondering why this kept occurring and how many more piles would topple?

There is much to be thankful for. No humans or animals were caught by the unannounced eruptions and both times vehicles parked precariously close have escaped unscathed. My thoughts are, it could be worse. It could be the middle of winter, wind raging and blinding snow. The loud crash of the wood hitting the ground with such violent force would dislodge the three feet of snow on the barn roof causing an avalanche to land on top of the pile. I love it when things are simple!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Aroma of Home

I press my face into his warm, muscular neck and inhale deeply of his fragrant life. I am instantly transported to another time and place, returned momentarily to a slow, romantic kitchen dance, or a hiding place when the world is overwhelming, the crook of tender love and unfettered passion. I find this crevice to be the safest, most familiar place I know, and I linger.

As I bury my face deeper, beyond the scratchy collar of his black nylon jacket and stubble chin, past the soft hood of his sweatshirt and down to the warm, smooth skin of his neck, my nostrils flare at the pungent aroma of something well known and, something only vaguely familiar. I raise my head tilting it to the right thoughtfully and then I begin to grin. "Garlic and. . . kerosene." I say triumphantly as I bury my cheeks back in, inhaling deeply one more time. He laughs and asks, "How do you always know?"

I play a mystery game each evening when my beloved arrives, the events of his entire day in tow. Cedar, pine, caulk or tar, diesel, two stroke oil, bonfire, coffee and the occasional cigar. Brown skin salty on my lips, once sticky from a day spent in the sun and blown dry by the gentle lake breeze. Freshly mowed grass, autumn leaves, barn aroma and the dirt of the earth. Fragrances once so foreign to me and at first somewhat offensive have now become seasoned with familiarity. Evidence of a work born out of love and desire, and the innate need to be a man and provide for his family.

Wherever his day has led him becomes a puzzle for me to solve and I realize as he comes through the door, tired from a long days work, and takes me into his arms, that it is I who have arrived safely at home.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

daily hum-drum

One of my assignments for writing class is to write something everyday. Some days, that just gets old. I don't always feel like I have a story in me especially if I've already worked on my main story for class and I don't want my blog ending up looking like a daily journal of "Today I did this and this and this." Sorry, but my life is not so exciting that others would want to know my everyday hum-drum. Since I don't feel like putting pen to paper today, I will put finger to key instead and try not to bore you.

While perusing through some photos to aid in my writing inspiration, I came across this charming little love note from my husband. Penned in ink on official 'grease' paper is his loving thank you to me for making his favorite dinner, Eggplant Parmesan. Being married to an Italian man has brought about some culinary creations I never dreamed I would cook let alone ingest. Eggplant has definitely been an acquired taste but after 21 years I can usually manage to choke a couple slim slices down if they are fully loaded with cheese and marinara sauce.

My husband has a wonderful way of leaving me secret notes all over. It is always a surprise when they pop up and I'm sure I will eventually write a story about it. . . Hey, I think I'm beginning to understand why we are supposed to write everyday!

The other photo is a lovely fall arrangement my hubby threw together in 20 minutes this afternoon. Hydrangea, rose hips, holly hocks, pine and cone flowers that were once lovely this summer are now being recycled. He offered to let me do it but I declined knowing that it would take me at least two hours of indecisiveness to come up with something only half as wonderful as his. I would no doubt obsess over each and every placement while he, on the other hand, flippantly tosses them into the urn and wallah, the dead brought back to life.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Something Lost, Something Gained

Looking back through my baby book at the few entries my mother had time to write, I can hear the worry in her voice as she retells one drama after another of my continued illnesses. At 7 days old I went into my 1st attack of asthma which progressed into pneumonia and other things like Roseolla Fever and the 3 days measles which lasted for 3 weeks. Many times she would write how worried they were, or how sick I was or, that I nearly died the night before. Hastily scrawled messages she did not want to forget but didn't have the time to elaborate on. Being mom to a sick infant, a 1 year old daughter and wife to a husband paralyzed from the neck down left her little time for the pleasures of writing.

I vaguely remember being in the hospital when I was 3 and someone had given me a stuffed monkey while I was there. I carried that monkey with me for years. After much love, his little paw was sewn back on, taped back on and eventually gone all together, but I loved him none the less. I don't remember much of the hospital stay but I have many memories of my little "Pooky".

As a mother of 4 I have always considered myself very blessed to have healthy children. I do not take that blessing lightly and have tried to always be mindful to thank the Lord for it. As a way of showing my gratitude for the health of my children and being spared all the worry and stress, I sometimes ask for stuffed animals for my birthday. Then those animals are lovingly delivered to the pediatric unit at the hospital to be passed out to sick children. I remember the reaction of the 1st mom whose child received one of the stuffed animals, I'm not sure which one of us cried more. Too timid to go in, I passed the job off to baby girl #1 and her friend while I hid out in the hallway. She was so grateful just to know someone cared.

Our 23 year span of healthy children came to an end last Saturday and we experienced our first overnight stay at the hospital along with our first surgery. It is agonizing to watch your child suffer in tremendous pain and be powerless to fix it. It is torture to wait for hours while doctors try to figure out what is wrong. After 7 hours it was determined that baby girl #1 would need her appendix out. It took another 6 hours to get an operating room. The whole operation only took about 20 minutes, less than the 'real' time it takes to get an oil change, as baby boy #2 put it. He waited patiently all day for his big sister that he loves and adores, even staying there with her after we left for the night.

I am reminded of Job and his thoughts on all he had lost. You can not willingly accept all the blessings of God and not be willing to accept all His trials as well. There is much to learn from both. We have only lost a bit of sleep and a body part that no one seems to think is of value, nothing really all that traumatic. But we have gained some insight into our own strengths and weaknesses and we have learned about the power of family and friends and what it means to be cared for and prayed for. There is no greater thing on earth to be gained.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

animal house

Over the past 21 years of our married life my husband David and I have opened our home to 11 different dogs, an estimated 20 cats, 4 horses, 3 goats, a lamb, 3 rabbits, a guinea pig, 3 parakeets, a snake, chamaeleon and Russian Tortoise, 2 fish that got as large a frying pans, and a quantum of cackling hens. Add 4 children into that mix and at times our house has seemed more like a zoo than a home.

Never claiming to be an animal lover, I’ve had to work hard at simply not being afraid of a few of these creatures, let alone “loving” them. Some have worked their way into my heart and become favorites while others I’m sad to say, I couldn’t wait to be rid of. Each one however, because of special qualities and little personality quirks, have become a part of our lives, playing a role in shaping who we are as people and a family unit.

There was a particular parakeet, whose real name shall go unmentioned, that never stopped squawking . Every time you spoke, turned on the faucet, or flipped a page in a book he would screech at the top of his mighty, midget lungs, loud enough and long enough to give you a shooting pain right between your eyeballs. We renamed him Satan because he especially hated the thin paper used in Bible pages. Whenever you wanted a little quiet time with God, he really let it fly. Glad to see him find a new home. Then there was a vicious little Shitzu named rags who as a tiny puppy attacked my two youngest children and left them bitten and bruised. Turns out there was something genetically wrong with all the males in that litter and they all had to be put down.

Much to my astonishment, I did not mind the snake. As long as his cage stayed on the kitchen counter where I could check frequently to make sure he hadn’t escaped. I’m sure I would have been exponentially less fond of him had he not been encased in glass.

My biggest fears have come from the largest and the smallest of the bunch. Never having grown up around any animals, there were many skills for me to learn and behaviors to get accustomed to. Try as I might, I never did master my fear of horses. Their sheer size and tremendous strength always reminded me that if push came to shove, I was not the one in control and we had one horse who’s personality was particularly more pushy than mine.

My tiniest fear was the chamaeleon. Those little buggers are as fast as lightening and guess what?, their cages need to be cleaned a lot. I hated putting my hand in his cage, certain he would run right up my arm and onto my head. Yuck! Then there was all the crickets he dined on. Hopping, jumping, disgusting little bugs riding next to me on the front seat of the car, safely contained in a box from PetSmart. Sure! I was not sad when his time was up.

Murray had to be my favorite of the tiny creatures. A soft, fluffy, caramel colored hamster who also resided on the kitchen counter. I know that the kitchen counter is not the ideal place for an animal to be located but life in our home has a way of getting out of control and sadly, 1 little friend in a cage met with an early expiration date due simply to forgetfulness. From then on, any creature smaller than my hand, that couldn’t come and lick you when they were hungry was located in a place of great activity in our home. Namely the kitchen.

I think Murray lived as long as he did because of his location. Three years is probably a record life span for a hamster and he seemed to thoroughly enjoy being with us. I would have never known that hamsters could be so social had he lived in another locale. Funny story about his end of life experience though. We knew that he was nearing his time because he had not been himself for a couple days. This particular day happened to be the day of our family reunion which was to be held outside. Later in the evening it began to rain so we invited everyone inside and when I got into the kitchen I could tell that Murray had died. Now, it’s bad enough to have a live hamster in a cage on your kitchen counter but a dead one, come on! I didn’t think I could inconspicuously stroll past our guests with a giant Habitrail cage containing a dead hamster, so, I just casually threw a dish towel over his cage and hoped for the best. The funniest part is that no one even seemed to notice. Or maybe they did, my family is very polite!

Without a doubt, my favorite dog has been Jake, also known as Shorty or Pooks. A giant Husky, Shepard mix, born on Christmas day with fur so soft and long you could loose yourself in it. He was forever the comedian, the thief, and the ‘I love being one of the pack’ dogs. He never thought he was any bigger than an 8 week old pup and it was nothing for him to leap through the air, flying across the room and land on the middle of the couch amongst the kids. He stole all sorts of items from the neighbors like chew toys, UPS packages, and 1 single, very expensive Eddie Bauer slipper. I told him if he was going to steel, he should at least get the pair. He had mastered the art of thievery because he had mastered the art of opening doors. Our neighbors all loved him but they could get a bit upset especially in the winter because he never mastered the art of closing them. Jake loved everyone and he had a particular fondness for the UPS man. To him the big brown truck meant biscuits. One day in an attempt to confiscate a biscuit or two, he wrestled with the big brown truck and lost. I can’t begin to express the tremendous loss we have felt since that day. I still miss the comical way he would sneak his head up through David’s arm at the dinner table, a hopeful gleam in his eye that a treat might come his way, or hearing him say, “hello” when the telephone would ring. They say there is one dog in everyone’s life that is just ‘it’. He was certainly it for all of us.

Having animals is a very rewarding experience but like anything, it comes with a price, literally. Two of my children have been employed at the local veterinary office so we do receive a generous 50% discount on all our services but still, wow. I am quite confident that I don’t even want to know the total amount of money spent over the years. I’m positive I’ve sacrificed more than one trip to Hawaii.

There have been sleepless nights, destroyed belongings, broken water lines and lots of poo but I would have to say that it has all been worth it. Several animals have been spared euthanasia because they found a home with us. Our children have learned about life and death, friendship, responsibility and compassion, heartache and unconditional love. All things that can never be bought with any amount of money.

Our kitchen is the hub of our home and some of my fondest moments have been spent there making dinner. Amidst children laughing, dogs barking and parakeets screeching, we have lived out our daily life finding joy in the presence of each other and making an ordinary task in life anything but mundane. I’m sure we have ingested more dog hair than is recommended by the AMA but we have all survived and become a closer family because of our animals. Mostly 4 legged guests that we have invited into our home to be given a better life. Funny how the reality is it’s us whose lives have been enriched.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

diapers and dog hair

How did I know it would come back around to this? In a totally different fashion this time but back just the same. I used to change diapers on my children and clean up a tremendous amount of fur from our beloved Husky, Jake. Now, the kids are way beyond diapers and Jake made an early trip to the great 'doggy heaven' in the sky. But somehow, diapers and dog hair have returned for a second showing.

Our darling little poodle Gizmo, whom we rescued from the pound many years ago has reached the age of not only being blind and deaf but, you guessed it, incontinent. A mop bucket has become a permanent fixture in our home and while I hate to use paper towel in such mass abundance, the thought of pee rags waiting to be washed grosses me out!

We've tried medication and it has helped with some 'dribbling' issues, but it does not correct what we call the total bladder download. Nor does it correct his almost constant urge to use our lovely outdoor facilities. Let the dog out, let the dog in, has become a way of life around here, especially in the mornings when no one has any extra time. Needless to say, frustration levels over the situation have elevated to code red in our quiet little nest and we are all becoming a 'wee' bit impatient with him.

Now mind you, we know this is the incorrect response but when you have let a dog out ten times in 20 minutes and he still pees on the floor on his way back in, it gets frustrating.

Feeling helpless we resorted to "doggie" diapers which were of no use. The first time he wore one, the urine shot right out over the top edge of the diaper and the sticky tabs got stuck in his curly poodle hair. It was actually quite funny, and also a waste of ten bucks. Finally, I got smart and resorted to "REAL" diapers. Much cheaper and more effective for our fluffy white bundle of love. As an added bonus, they even have Clifford the Big Red Dog printed around the waistband. Granted, I do have to cut a hole for his tail but so far they seem to contain the flood and bring a slight reprieve to our frustration. Maybe we can even reduce the level to just code 'yellow'.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Joy and Sorrow

Twenty-three years ago this month, my sister and I increased our mother's grandchild load from one to four in one weekend. I think we blew her mind! It was wonderful and crazy all at the same time and she made us promise never to do that again, as if we had conspired together in the first place!

My sister was blessed with twins, a handsome boy and a beautiful girl and I was given the delight of my life, my sweet baby girl #1. Life was grand, sharing stories and pictures and feeling like once again my sister and I had something in common. It had been a long time since I had that feeling, especially since she had moved away.

Then one morning the phone rang and I could tell from my mother's voice that something was terribly wrong. You know that silence, that long silence that is screaming at you without a sound. My sister's beautiful little girl at 4 months of age, had died in her sleep. The world seemed to stop at that moment yet my mind seemed to race. So many thoughts ran passing by in a split second. There are two I remember strongest. The first was the instant panic I felt for my own child sleeping in her cradle. How does a baby just stop breathing? There is no warning. They are given to you, then taken away without understanding or explanation. The second was guilt at my own child sleeping in her cradle. Why my sister's baby and not mine? How do we share little girl stories now? If I share my joy, do I cause her sorrow?

I did not understand then, nor do I understand now, the strength of a parent at the loss of their child. Even witnessing it so close, I can not imagine myself surviving it. I get nauseous still at the thought of it and something inside of me just wants to curl up into a ball. How do you place one foot in front of the other or for that matter, even get up on your feet? My sister is a remarkable woman. The journey of her pain and sorrow is private and personal, hers to share if she chooses but I will say that she is my hero to endure a pain that is never over.

I find it odd that I think more about my niece's death on her birthday than I do on the day of her death and I wonder if it is that way for my sister? There is not a joyful birthday that passes for this trio of jewels that does not have sorrow mingled in with it. How do you have joy for two without sorrow for the one that isn't there? How do you watch them grow and become young adults and not wonder what she would have been like?

Twenty-three, the same age I was when this all took place, my sister twenty-four. We sure felt grown up but as I look at my baby #1 and my nephew, I know we were still really just kids, made older for the second time, (that's another story) by a death that came too soon and I am reminded that all sunshine makes a desert and I praise God even though I do not understand.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

wonderful, magical life

Pumpkin life around our place is very unpredictable. Back in 1991 I grew a pumpkin that weighed 113 pounds. I remember the year because I was pregnant with baby #2 and it was actually the first time I tried to grow pumpkins. In the following years, the deer have gotten more pumpkins than we have or they just have not produced well even though our attempts have been whole hearted. Last year my pumpkins all died and we ended up purchasing our fall harvest pumpkins at Jacob's Corn Maze.

Well, the babies carved their pumpkins and set them out with our fall decorations on the front porch and that is where they stayed until they were reduced to slimy, moldy pools of pumpkin juice that no one wanted to touch. Brave daddy finally came rolling in with the industrial strength wheel barrow, shovel and hose to haul those twisted, distorted faces, once lovingly carved, to the compost pile. Into the heart of the pile they were cultivated and covered with plastic. Then, the magic began...

This spring we were blessed with this wonderful pumpkin plant complete with plenty of pumpkins for all the babies! Isn't it just like God to take something thought to be dead and rotten; something you never even think to have hope for, and bring it back to life. God reaches right into the deep, dark, secret places, into the heart of the garbage pile and works His wonderful, magical life restoring power to bring forth a new creation bursting with fruit. How amazing! How loving! How available for all!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

listen to your mother

"How many times have I told you not to do that?" "If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times..." Famous quotes from our mothers that we've always laughed about. Funny how even as a grown woman, they come rushing back when I do something stupid.

One of those 'stupid things' I should not do, but do all the time, is stick a utensil into the bowl while the mixer is running. Bad I know, I've been told a thousand times! Typically I use my wonderful Pampered Chef rubber scraper but today I was being lazy and just grabbed the nearby fork. I have learned that metal forks don't have nearly the give that rubber scrapers do! Needless to say I ended up with my fingers trapped between the fork and the mixer while it was cranked up on high, OUCH! And suddenly, the image of my mother standing there scolding me came flashing through my mind. After several tense moments, I finally pried my squished little fingers out and got the fork unstuck.
Have I learned my lesson? Definitely not. I turned right around and stuck the rubber scraper in the mixing bowl because after all, I had to finish making the banana bread. I will however be sure to only use rubber. As for listening to my mother. well they do always know best but kids never listen.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

OMG!!! You did WHAT?

So, baby boy #2 had a spaz that I let you all see our dirty sink and rug... go figure, I can't even find the beautiful hardwood floor in his bedroom! But, I promised him I would let you also see just how lovely our old farm sink really is. I do love this sink! It sure can take a beating and come out looking, and smelling great.
I remember the day I bought it at a yard sale. It came with one of those old metal cabinets underneath it. I tried my best not to take that nasty thing, it was all rusty. $30.00 for the sink and cabinet, $50.00 if I just wanted the sink. Sure, they were no dummies were they? So, I became the proud owner of a new "old" sink and a rusty cabinet.
That sink sat behind our barn for about 10 years before we had the opportunity to work it into our kitchen and I was so proud of my $30.00 purchase. One of the little tidbits not mentioned in the 'owners manual' or thought of by my ever processing mind, finding a faucet to fit it that didn't break the bank! OUCH! It cost us over $200.00 for a faucet and if I recall we had about 3 to choose from.
Sometimes as I'm working at the sink, I wonder about the original owner and I try to picture how it looked the first time she used it. Flawless and pristine white. I wonder if she was as excited by it as I still get, did she realize the working value of it or was it just the norm for the time? I picture all the big holiday meals cooked in her kitchen, all the canning she must have done... then I think, yeah, it was probably some crotchety old man that never even got married. No little baby bottoms getting washed in here!
By the time the sink had made its' way into our kitchen, my babies were beyond the size of getting their bath in the sink, but I'll just bet there really was many a sweet baby bottom that got clean in here. Thank God you can bleach a porcelain sink!


I was recently reading someone Else's blog and she was commenting on the fact that blogs can make you look all shiny and give people the impression your life is perfect. She wanted to be sure that people saw the real her and for that I give her credit. No one lives a perfect life.

But as I sit here this morning, looking around at my imperfect and 'real' life I can't help but wonder... It comes complete with 2 pit bulls flopped sound asleep on the furniture, remnants of their apparently delicious, chewed up sticks left on the rug for later chewing. One slightly still overweight, old golden retriever whose thyroid is so bad she is on 2 medications a day, and our delightful, geriatric, blind, deaf, incontinent poodle whose breath is so bad it must have come from the depths of hell. Plus, a couple of cats, (I've mentioned before that I have trouble saying no haven't I?) A gentle breeze blows in the open kitchen windows and tumbleweeds of dog hair go rolling across the hardwood floor only to get wrapped around the legs of the dining room chairs, settling in comfortably with the golden piles already there. They look like those cute little fur wrapped cuffs on sleeves you see all the little girls wear, only not so cute! The sink is full of dishes and the laundry is in the wash, in the dryer, on the line and on the floor!

Now, in case you are thinking we must be slobs, we vacuumed yesterday, did the dishes and the laundry. In a house of six people and six animals, it seems to make no difference. So I thought about my "shiny" blog and said, "Why not?", it might be the only shiny thing I have!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Corny Obsession

I seem to be obsessed with corn these last couple weeks... I think it must have something to do with watching baby boy #2's corn field grow. He and his papa planted it this spring, sowed the seeds by hand I might add, along with turnips and some other yummy thing the dear love. We now get the wonderful privilege of watching a dozen dear dining daily! Sounds like a Dr. Seuss book doesn't it? And I love corn on the cob as much as the dear except I like mine boiled with sugar and lemon juice then loaded down with an extremely unhealthy amount of butter, salt and pepper, YUM! Baby #2 and I race to see who can eat one the fastest. I never win!

I love looking at the corn blowing in the wind, planted in nice, neat and tidy rows. That's me, liking things neat and tidy with everything in order, in my dreams... But if you look at the plant closely, there are so many colors on it. The green leaves, the golden tassels, the yellow and white corn and my favorite, the purple/pink silk. Then in the fall it all turns brown and is set to be useful for another season. God is sure creative isn't he?

To help satisfy my obsession, we took a trip to Jacob's Corn Maze out on M-72. This year the mazes were done in the image of a landing eagle and a flying eagle. We did them both and had a corny good time. My babies are all funny in their own way and I get a kick out of listening to them interact and try to get one up on each other. Most of it doesn't write out well, it's a "You just had to be there" sort of thing, to hear the timing and the tone but baby girl #3 said just out of the blue, "I don't understand about fishing, it's so boring" to which I responded, "Not if you're catching something." Baby boy #2 in his best sarcastic, girly voice says, "I just don't understand shopping, it's so boring." to which baby girl #3 promptly replied, "Not if you're catching something." Not funny written out, I know. But we laughed hysterically. Could be we were already in a 'corny' mood due to the purple silk arm pit hair, mustaches, uni brows and ear hair we were all wearing. You see, in my personal opinion corn mazes are not all that fun in and of themselves. Mostly it's hot and sweaty in there, you're getting eaten by bugs and you're thirsty and lost. There is a fine line between how much water is too much water because then there is that 'other' problem. And, if you are too uptight, you will spend all your time arguing over which way to go. My advice, relax, put on your corn silk uni brow and feed your corny obsession!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

firewood and manhood

While dining with some friends last night, the topic of firewood came up and the question raised about whether or not it is worth it to heat your home with wood. David and I both answered with a resounding and emphatic YES! However, I believe his reason goes much deeper than mine.

I love the cozy feel of the fire on a cool, crisp autumn day, the delicious smell of the different kinds of wood as they burn. I love that my husband can tell me which type of wood it is just by the smell of it. I love being snuggled up with him by the fire on a dismal, rainy, Sunday afternoon and I love knowing that we have provided for ourselves, by our own means. People tell me over and over that they just love my home, they feel so welcome and comfortable when they come in. I know that beautiful fire dancing in the fireplace gets all the credit.

For a man though, I believe firewood and manhood are directly connected. All a part of that inner, God given need to provide for and protect one's family. David has cut firewood for 35 years now and while his body at times grows tired of it, his heart never does. His drive never diminishes nor does the sense of urgency, that desire to see 20 cord of wood neatly stacked and ready to use. That peace in knowing your family will be warm for another winter. It is a ritual that begins in the spring and lasts well into the fall when we finally have all our wood in for the year.

My husband is a wonderful teacher of few words and as I watch my boys go out the back door with their dad and head into the woods behind our house, I wonder with a bit of awe and envy about what life lessons and manhood mysteries are being lived out in those moments? Even if I am out there helping with the wood it is a world which, as a woman, is not mine to know, and that is okay.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Laundry Line

We have been fortunate enough to have lived on both ends of the financial spectrum. There was a time in our lives when we were not only too poor to afford a dryer, we were too poor to pay for the dryer at the laundromat. I can remember winter days when the house was full of little baby socks and little baby undershirts hanging from every spot imaginable. You learn pretty quickly what to hang where because it only takes one of your husband's work buddies stopping over and being greated by your bras and panties to figure it out!

I remember when we finally got our 1st 'used' dryer and my mother said to me, "You might as well take down your clothes line now, you will never use it again." I gasped in horror and swore that I would. Two years later, down it came never having been touched once.

There has also been a time in our lives when we've had more money than brains and I can honestly say I am more ashamed of the latter. There is nothing shameful in poverty but plenty to be ashamed of in wastefulness. It is funny the things you think you have to have and the things you never knew you needed until you see them. It is even more tragic that all those 'things' end up owning you instead of the other way around. Suddenly you find yourself working all the time to pay for them and spending all your spare time maintaining them. Why is it that the owners manuals never put that little tidbit in their disclaimer?

Over the years our life has changed a great deal and we are learning to 'declutter' but it can be a slow process. I now have a new clothes line and a dryer that has never been owned by anyone but me. I am greatful that I don't have to hang my clothes in the living room anymore (even though baby #2 still prefers to dry his clothes on the floor) and even more grateful that I have the time to hang them on the line.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

backroads of benzie

Baby #4 and I went blueberry picking today. The family had already made our haul for the winter by picking and freezing about 20 pounds a couple weeks ago but it was just the two of us today and it sounded like fun. The berries had been so lush and plentiful when we were last there that I was sure we would have more than our fill in no time flat.

All morning I thought about what pictures I would like to take, designing a scrapbook layout in my head and trying to imagine how the story would play out. Well as usual, my life never quite goes like the fairy tale I conjure up in my mind. Apparently blueberries must come on in cycles because just as I thought, there were tons of berries, but since when did they start coming in pink? And hey, where's my camera? Well, we began picking slightly 'blue' berries and I convinced myself it was okay that I forgot the camera and I settled into the quietness of the moment. Then much to my delight, soft melodic chimes in the distance filter down on the breeze, my fairy tale life does exist, not... Baby #4's delightful ring tone abruptly brings me back to reality. His friend, calling to finalize plans about attending the JV football game, a little early. We drop 5 bucks in the little metal box and head home.

HOME, down County Road 685, past Tucker and Levi's Fresh Veggies, past the roadside peach and plum stand made famous by the 50's something cop car parked behind it. Past orchard after orchard full of shiny red apples, and cornfield after cornfield with their golden tassels waving proudly in the gleaming sun... sigh... no camera.

All is not lost though for I am the devoted, never say no 'wonder woman'! (whose camera sits on the counter at home). I have just enough time to drop off baby #4, grab my camera, race back to get all those wonderful shots (some of those wonderful shots) and still have time to pick up baby #1 from work. Now that's what I call living the simple life... yeah right.

I consider myself fortunate to live in a place where you can still purchase your veggies from kids on the side of the road, pick your own blueberries and pay for them on the honor system. Where there is one traffic light in the middle of town and family fun Friday is the high school football game. I live in a place where people drive for hours to get here for their vacations, where you are never more than a few minutes from a body of water and there is more grass and sandy beaches than pavement. There may not be bright lights or big city excitement but the back roads of Benzie are paved with adventure. Now that's what I call living a truly rich life!

what's up with the 'i'?

Baby #1 has the name Alexis Elizabeth. When she was younger she would tell me, "I hate my name, it sounds like I belong in a romance novel!" I personally thought it sounded much more sophisticated than say Bambi or Trixie but try to explain that to a 10 year old.

Now that she is older, she always refers to herself as Alexis and I was confident way back then that one day she would. We still call her Alix and the mother of one of her lifelong friends still calls her Ali Cat (sometimes loudly, in public). It's hysterical and sweet.

I was also confident that if I spelled Alix with an i, people would automatically assume she was a girl. I was wrong in that department. I can't remember one person who saw only her name and caught on that she was a girl, and the misspelling and questions... ugh, half her relatives still don't spell it right.

So, in an attempt to say "I love you, I meant well, I was clueless" I have decided to join the ranks of misspelled names and replace the 'e' in chrysanthemum with an 'i'. I now have a clue as to the real reason you call yourself Alexis!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

finding my voice

My wise old English professor once said I should publish my work, but shortly after that came babies 2, 3 & 4 and before I knew it, half my life had passed by. Now baby #1 is turning 23 and if I had a nickel for every time someone has said to me, "You should write a book.", I'd be rich! The trouble is that most of the funny stuff has passed on by in a whirl of diapers and dog hair long forgotten by a mom who was too busy to write it down.

Now lest you think this is a blog about dogs and the people who love them, it is not. It is however a blog about a woman who has not the power to say no and gets herself into all kinds of trouble because of it. It's about daily life, love and laughter, sorrow and pain, and what it truly means to be rich.

I always say that one day I will write that book and title it something like "It's a Dog's Life" or more like "My Life Has Gone to the Dogs" and maybe I will, but for now, this is the place where I am once again, finding my voice.