Tag Archiv: kids

Sharing review

photo compliments of morguefile.com

photo compliments of morguefile.com

Today I’m sharing links to some older posts (fall 2013/spring 2014) and saying a word about sharing. People ask me sometimes if it’s okay to share my posts. The answer is absolutely, yes! (and yes please!) Any help in spreading the word about the blog is much appreciated. If you like what you read on a particular day, tell your friends. If you find something dull, troubling, or unpleasant, why not send along a link to your enemies? A thought anyway. :)

Today’s sharing review has a bit of a family stories theme . . .

http://countyroad21.com/2013/10/30/tailless-as-in-without-a-tail/

http://countyroad21.com/2013/11/26/healing-and-how-the-short-people-do-it/

http://countyroad21.com/2013/11/19/uncertain-and-solid-things/

http://countyroad21.com/2013/12/12/girl-two-on-day-three/

http://countyroad21.com/2014/01/15/advice-to-my-children/

http://countyroad21.com/2014/02/24/grounded-with-wings/

 

This photo caught my eye on morguefile.com as well.

This photo caught my eye on morguefile.com as well.

National Holiday Cake

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Picture is upside down but candles are arranged to spell, “old.”

 

The holiday was national as applied to the nation of County Road 21, where my husband and I were again celebrating our shared birthday. The kids made the cake, to which the poor lighting does not do justice. My contribution to the cake was in the form of empathy band aids for all the emotionally disenfranchised during it’s making. Knowing only who hurt whose feelings, whose ideas got TOTALLY ignored, and that they didn’t like any of the frosting recipes so they made up their own, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the cake.

It was delicious, including the frosting. I should say that outright. Their joy in presenting was helpfully contagious. Unfortunately, I have a few issues with germs and food cleanliness. The decision to decorate the cake with fragments of potentially poisonous bits of chopped up rubber snake, cars, and other well used toys was a stretch for me. We didn’t have to guess the theme (which is good because I wouldn’t have figured it out). The birthday man and I were treated to a verbal tour of the cake with great pride and enthusiasm.

Look at the cake. Do you get it? We’ve got everything.

Look. See that brown thing? It’s actually a hat from one of our toys, but here it’s the poop. Get it? It’s a farm!

Don’t forget to show them the pee.

Yeah, see that? There was a trailing blob of yellow food coloring in one corner. That’s the pee. It is definitely not a farm without pee.

There was a car, people, fields. The cake was chocolate. Brown was the color chosen for the icing. Earthy tones all around. Coconut and walnuts for texture.

Doesn’t it look like the snake is actually crawling through the cake?

And did you see the sheep guts? That’s what the red is with all the lumps. Blood and guts. 

Isn’t it great? We knew you’d like it.

 

It really was delicious. I removed the germ infested toys and poisonous rubber snake bits as soon as possible and shook my head at the comradery and pleasure they never tire of finding in all things uncouth. It reminded me of Father’s Day. After all the cards and sweet things, one child ran for his gift. He returned with a blindfold, a nasty concoction he’d made, and the sincere belief that would be fun for his father to drink his recipe and guess the ingredients. Behold the man. :)

 

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Sheep solutions plus justice

 

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As mentioned before, Violet had her lambs and is happily wandering the pasture with her little flock of three in tow. Lily gave birth to four, so far bright and hearty lambs. Daisy on the other hand is a source of debate.

What if she’s not pregnant vs. She is definitely pregnant

Waiting another few weeks would undoubtedly solve the mystery, but I’m not that patient. I am a problem solver who spent the weekend working out the details to our solution.

Beginning today, the children have been divided into teams (Boy one/Girl two vs. Boy two, Girl one). Each team is equipped with 3 pregnancy tests. They work on humans, why shouldn’t they work on sheep?

The kids have never seen these sticks. They’re getting three because I’m guessing they’ll use at least one stick to pee on themselves. But once we explain the importance, and especially once we  mention the reward, they should be good to go. The trick will be the need to have the sticks placed in the urine stream for five seconds. I began to worry for them. Should one hold the sheep while the other holds the testing stick? Should we find a way to restrain the sheep on a raised platform? Should they simply be on shifts lying quietly in the barn at night until the ewe forgets they’re there? . . . I was going a bit crazy until I remembered that this was not my problem; the kids can think for themselves. My part is to provide the testing sticks, the explanation, and the reward. How they get that five seconds of urine from an anxious, jittery, possibly pregnant sheep is something they can brag about in the future.

It’s not easy being the problem solver, team captain, chief cheerleader of unusual exploits. My heart is swelling with something somewhere between pride and satisfaction to picture one of them lying on the ground trying to baptize their stick and stay dry. There’s a lovely sense of primordial justice to the fact that this won’t be possible (the dry part).

Last night I realized that this little exercise needn’t be limited to our current crisis. Come August, September, even November, when there hasn’t been a ram in sight for ages (they won’t know the difference) they can be sent out as needed to check all the sheep. It ought to take hours of hit and miss attempts of catching and holding. There is nothing, I realize, to stop me from responding at will to a few weeks of feral behavior with my own little sense of fair play. It is a calming and beautiful thought.

Beginning with the commencement of our games today, once again, God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.

Current ailments

photo compliments of morguefile.com

photo compliments of morguefile.com

In addition to severe hearing loss, my children no longer have interest in or aptitude for school, music practice, chores, responsibilities, basic personal hygiene, or conversation about any of the aforementioned.

Girl two has been the egg collector for ages. She has two modes right now.

#1. Going out to get the eggs after wailing, tears, and stomping (I see her veering towards the Charismatics when she’s older). On the way, she sees a sibling, a bird, or a bug, and forgets why she went outside. If you can find her after that and lead her to the door of the coop, she sometimes remembers to get the eggs.

#2. She wails, stomps, dries her eyes and heads to the coop. She returns a few minutes later with at least one broken egg, sometimes more. She cries and says she just isn’t good at getting the eggs. She suggests that perhaps it would be best for the sake of the eggs if another more skilled child were assigned the job of egg collection. She is shocked at suggestions of intentional egg breakage.

Boy two and Girl one are reading like there’s no tomorrow. A friend couldn’t quite get how I could be getting my son in trouble for reading. I’m not sure what there is to explain. Both of them hide (closets, bathrooms, small spaces) to read. Both expect that a good page trumps coming to dinner or responding to verbal commands. I have endless conversations with people who only appear to be in the room with me. I yell their names a foot from them, sometimes twice before they realize I am speaking. Boy two speaks (and works) primarily on Saturday morning because I’ve taken to using an after lunch library trip as a way to his heart. It’s a mixed blessing. I get to hear his voice for a few hours. Then he wants nothing to do with food, life, or people for the rest of the day. I am planning to call a no reading zone for a day or two this summer just so I can remember what it was like to have kids who talk to me about their thoughts when they came in from outside.

Boy one continues his preparations for law school. By my estimation, he will soon be ready to take on, if not the world, at least the ruling communist party in China or the mafia. I do my best to be a good training ground. An analysis of his time would look somewhat like this: Homework: 3-5%, Responsibilities: 5-7%, Recreation (soccer, music): 15% Verbal exercises (philosophizing, debating, honing socialization skills on the phone): 75%.

The lack of focus around here is maddeningly contagious. I myself have not had clear consecutive thoughts for days now.  When I can remember what the issue is, I ponder important questions slowly. Like is there a cure for spring fever? If so, what does it taste like and where do you buy it?

Family Work Days

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Wood Cutters, by Tom Roberts. 1886. (Gratefully, not the way we do wood splitting!)

 

Spring has inaugurated the pecking season. That season where one never finishes but faithfully pecks at the list whenever possible until October. Saturday was a family work day. The sheep barn is clean, we put in some hours with the wood splitter (a shiny red machine, not a person), we made a start towards cleaning up some more of the pasture, and we spread brown treasures around the property. Our manure spreading is shovels and pitch forks from a wagon pulled by the smallest tractor driver who can still reach the gas and brakes. We also leveled some places for our new hives, picked them up, and got them in place.

Not a single child was excited about family work day. The older three accomplished quite a bit. The youngest did a little. There were lots of complaints, some good natured, some not. Feet drug in a range from periodic to emphatic. The after lunch return to labors was especially unpopular. It ended like this:

“I actually really like family work days,” I said. We were stacking some more of the wood we’d split.

“Me too,” said voices from every side of me.

“They’re one of my favorite times together,” I said.

“I know what you mean,” said one.

“Me too,” said another.

They began recounting all they’d accomplished, especially impressed that some of them could no longer reach the top of the stack we had started along the wall of the shed on the ground that morning.

Family work days give me hope. Not because we ever come close to what we thought we might do. (Why my husband and I spend such large amounts of time debating what should be done on the list which we never complete is a good question.) Not because everyone is happy all day.  My husband and I disagree on and off about how best to do it all. Once every fifteen minutes or so, someone hides in the bathroom, stomps off incensed at an egregious insult, or insists that they are starving, exhausted, or seriously injured. I tell myself as I re-motivate another child that work days are like democracy: the only thing worse than doing them is not doing them.

Conclusions:

Before this year, there is no doubt that my husband and I could have accomplished more in a day working by ourselves than with the family. But the scales have tipped. Not a lot, but a little.

Family work days say that work is an important part of life, but efficiency is not everything.

Knowing in the moment, the difference between failure and success, might not be a particular human specialty. Maybe the point is to keep at it as best you know, celebrate the stacks of wood and piles of poop you have, and leave the rest of it as tomorrow’s problem so you can go inside eat meatloaf with baked potatoes.

Road Trip

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Before we had children (back when we thought the number of children you have is the kind of thing you decide) we planned to take a road trip. We would load them the children we did not yet have in a car, as soon as they were old enough to appreciate it, and drive across Canada.

Life happened. Jobs, schools and houses came and went. Four children made it to born. We moved to the farm. The theory of small farms is that one supplements one’s food supply and therefore income, while enjoying the wholesome qualities of country living. The reality is that while working  harder for it, you also pay more than the neighbors for your food. We stick with it because the farm makes us happy, our food tastes great, and we know where it came from.

The kids are now old enough to appreciate a road trip across Canada just in time for us to appreciate that the rest of our life choices have made that impossible. Luckily they weren’t there when we vowed to do it so nobody is upset. We the vow makers are okay with it because we think the trade off is worth it. Nevertheless, I have longed for a smaller version of the road trip. We looked at a few ideas in the last few years but nothing clicked.

This January I sat fretting about a beloved aunt. Should I fly down to see her?  If so when? I batted these questions around until I realized the problem: I really wanted to go see my aunt, but I really didn’t want to leave my family at home and go off by myself on a big journey.

Which is when I realized that a road trip would solve everything.

In January, my husband was ambivalent but willing. Since the end of February, he has been gleefully counting the days. The internet estimates the trip at 17.5 hours of driving. Past experience predicts at least 2 hours of stops for every 8 hours of driving. The return trip is longer. :)

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print. I’m away from the blog for a week to be fully present for our adventure.

How We Got to Where We Are

The Chef, by unknown Spanish master, 17th century.

The Chef, by unknown Spanish master. 17th century.

Occasionally it comes upon me with a great panic: the children are growing up. Sooner than I think they’ll be flying the coop, circling the barn, and cresting the clouds somewhere over the pond. With these thoughts the tears rise hard and fast.

Boy one’s shoes look like we could use them as canoes this summer. I feel already his eventual loss. In his most irritating moments, nostalgia morphs into longing for the clock to tick double time, but lately he isn’t irritating me enough. This put me in need of a list. A list of things I still need to teach him in the two and a half, tiny, little, puny, minuscule years before he graduates from high school.

It turned out tobe a long list, which was good. It gave me something else to worry about. I decided there was no time like the present to start working with the others on departure preparedness. Which is why I instituted weekly cooking nights for the months of January and February. Each child has a night to cook with me. Making it to the end of February earns me a gold star. Further commitment, for now, is not required.

As expected, cooking so regularly with sous-chefs has taken the smooth out of dinner preparations, but otherwise I like it. Boy one started with a chicken chili. He learned about peeling garlic cloves, while I assured him he was still in the game on that one since I didn’t know you could get garlic, without ordering it in butter on bread at a restaurant, until after I left home.

“I want to know how to make soup,” announced Boy two. “Can you make sure I learn how to make soup?” We boiled our bones the night before and went to work when he got home from school. Even the leftovers thrilled him. Girl one began with curried chicken (see a meat theme anyone?) and Girl two’s first go was a stir fry (pork!).

The kids have been in the kitchen a million times but their cooking nights feel different. Smelling spices together, cutting up vegetables, and discussing substitutions, I walk them through the secret passages of my castle. Girl two made buttermilk with the usual mix of vinegar and milk. Nothing special, but to her, the knowledge was an invitation to magic. Boy two cried the usual tears as he chopped an onion. It felt like super powers to hand him a piece of bread, tell him to hold it in his mouth, then watch his amazement as his eyes returned to normal.

Wrapped up in these simple things lies the heart and soul of our loving and being. Without food, we die. To prepare a meal well is to reverence life: not wasting what we have, blessing those who partake. To give someone food says I wish you to live. And with good food, I wish you to live well and long and happy.

Circus Days

Circus, by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - 1913. (http://www.the-athenaeum.org/art/detail.php?ID=55807)

Circus, by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner – 1913. (http://www.the-athenaeum.org/art/detail.php?ID=55807)

The children are trying to steal my inner peace. My plans and systems are the grapes. They are the grape pressers, barefoot, stomping, determined to make wine.

The fog Girl one generally lives in has turned to oatmeal. We have not been anywhere at the time I was planning to arrive in weeks.

Girl two (the ever cheerful) has begun raising her voice and banging whatever is closest at the slightest provocation. When she’s in the car and can’t make her feet talk, she pounds the windows or the arm rests.

Happy go lucky Boy two can concentrate enough to read. Experimentation with repetitive high pitched sounds is also in. Speaking, listening, and job completion are out of the question.

Boy one is somehow both bored and behind on all responsibilities. The pressure that comes from an inborn desire for completion does not exist. The need to tap and bounce and never, ever, under any circumstances stop talking fills his waking moments with boundless unfocused energy.

They’re ready for snow and Christmas holidays, but December has just begun. If I knew how to fix it, I would. Were the solution a quaint herbal remedy or a synthetic chemical injection with unknown side effects, I would be the first at the counter for purchase. We’d probably inject and ingest while still in the parking lot. For good measure, we’d let another bit dissolve under our tongues while watching a yoga class.

I am looking into the possibility of hypnotically induced human hibernation – for me (they don’t deserve it). Failing that I am considering some re-homing options – also for me. In the spirit of Christmas, Jolly Old St. Nicholas, and all the rest, my children are also fighting about everything. Patience is, well, we don’t know what it is because we haven’t seen it around for a few days. I think about Christmas, the upcoming birth of a baby. I think of the baby Jesus in the manger and then I think of my kids.

Dear God,

Would you consider a trade?

A few from the twos

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In the kitchen:

Boy two wanted to cook. With much delight, he sequestered himself for the making of the world’s best molasses cookie ever. I am descended from a master of molasses and make a pretty fine molasses cookie myself. I tasted his cookies ready to sweetly encourage him from the heights of my better way. But his cookies weren’t ok, they were amazing. Starting to feel a little threatened, I reminded myself to be happy for him. He is after all my son. Just because he killed the competition on his first shot at molasses cookies didn’t mean my contributions to the craft of cooking had no value.

To comfort myself, I ate a lot of cookies.  Secret ingredients were enthusiastically confessed as I ate. Clarity came not with the choice of ingredients, but rather their amounts. My prize Mexican vanilla (for which one needs half the called for amount to equal three times the glorious flavor) had been used by a boy who didn’t wait excitedly for it to arrive, procured by relatives visiting in Arizona. The cookies were soaked in vanilla like fruit cake in brandy. Undercooked cookie consumption could have meant a drunk driving charge. The recipe called for a teaspoon. Boy two used a 1/4 cup. (That’s 12.5 times the amount the recipe called for if anyone’s curious.) I’m going to stick to my recipe after all, but if I ever want a very pricey cookie, I know who to call.

 

On the way to school:

Girl one says God can do anything.

Girl two is sympathetic to her position but not convinced. God is great and everything, she says, but . . .  God has never turned a mother into a baby. He has turned a baby into a mother, but never a mother into a baby. And even when he turns a baby into a mother it’s not very fast. It takes like a really long time. So maybe he can turn a mother into a baby, but so far, he never has.

 

After dinner exchanges:

I see Boy two give Girl one some money. I can’t figure out why, so I take the money away, give it back to him along with advice not to share, and go about my business. He takes his money and goes upstairs to find Girl one. I can hear him giving her the money again.

She doesn’t need your money, I say when he returns. It’s really ok to have your own things.

Don’t worry, he says rubbing his hands together with a wicked smile. The only birthdays left are hers and mine. I’m just helping make my present even bigger.

 

State of things

Summer 2014 July Aug 059

Apple trees:  Only some bore fruit this first year. The ones that did had one or two apples, except our champion tree with more than a dozen. Resulting apple cobbler was priced at $70 a plate, but maybe it was only $60.

Bees: Despite the failure of the Let the Boys Become Men campaign, and my subsequent involvement in beekeeping (due mainly to my ability to read) we are still glad we got our bees. If they can survive the winter, we’ll be sittin pretty for next year. If they don’t, well, we’ll re-evaluate.

Misty (the pony who arrived with a “staying for one year only,” guarantee) has had her chances of staying around here upped mightily. We had an actual horse person come and work with Boy one. They were happy with what he was already doing and gave him some help going forward. (Strike one success for the Boys Become Men Campaign.) The clincher was a show by a Canadian folk singer (Marie-Lynn Hammond) that I went to last weekend. I bought a CD about horses called, Hoofbeats. I thought I bought it for the kids (who are absolutely crazy about it) only I am in love with it too. (Honestly, if you love horses, kids, or good storytelling, you would love this CD.) There is some kind of magic floating around in the music because I’m starting to feel lucky when I see Misty in the field instead of wondering how many pounds she’d dress out at for the freezer.

The other animals are all happy. Chickens are laying billions of eggs. Currently, 1103 to wash on the counter. 31 little meat chicks are growing like weeds. We’re down to one chicken left in the freezer, so I am pretty happy to see them getting ready to address the situation. Until then, I’m scratching my head for recipes to hide tongue, heart and liver in. They seem to be most of what’s left in the meat section. I thought I’d done it with a stir fry the other day, but later Boy one got to shivering, telling me he knew there was liver, he just knew it.

Maybe you had a little, I said, but less than half of that meat was liver.

Mine was all liver. I could tell by the smoothness on the outside.

Statistically, that’s just not very likely, I said. Anyway, heart meat is kind of smooth on the outside too, so I doubt you could tell the difference.

His eyes bulged out and his lips trembled a little bit. Cocky boy whispered, you’re not joking are you.

Hmm – not joking, but feeling pretty good.

Lastly, the cats are failures. There are a lot of little somebody’s moving in for the winter to the space between the downstairs ceiling and the upstairs floor.  If, for example, you sit quietly writing during the middle of the day, they run over your head, in and out for hours. Does marvels for the peace and concentration.