Monday, July 30, 2012


My children are much more like dogs than I like to admit.

When we were kids, my dad had a dog named Zack.  For those that know us, that info doesn't really help narrow down the dog of which I speak.  At birth, when I turned out to be a girl and didn't really fit the name, all of my dad's dogs have been named Zack.  Anywho, (our family's new word after vacation.  Our 18 year old tour guide through the cave, the same one who left us unsupervised in the cave with thousands of dollars worth of crystals said, "Anywho" at least 150 times during our 30 minute tour.) this dog of my dad's really liked Kraft processed cheese slices.  The kind you have to unwrap.  Regardless of where the dog was in the house, he could here my dad open up a slice of cheese.  Making a grilled cheese sandwich?  Zack heard the wrapper and came running, hoping to score a piece for himself.

Stick with me through yet another tangent.

At least 300 days out of the year, my lunch consists of a toasted turkey sandwich, an apple, and one other fruit.  When that is eaten, I pull out my 48 oz. party bag of peanut M&Ms.  I buy in bulk, as it's cheaper that way.  I eat them while sitting on the couch and catching up on blog reading.  The kids know this.  It's my thing.  They call peanut M&Ms my vitamins. 

Each day, when Turken comes down from his nap, he immediately comes to the couch and asks for a handful of M&Ms.  I agree, and he grabs some.

OK, back to the whole children/dog connection.

Today, when Turken put the newly opened 48 oz. bag onto the couch, it was a bit lopsided.  The bag toppled off and landed on the hardwood floor with an amazing crash.  M&Ms went absolutely everywhere, including the adjoining two rooms. And they didn't go quietly.  Kind of like rain on an uninsulated tin roof. 

Within the blink of an eye, every child in the house came running.  They didn't need to see what happened.  They knew.  It isn't the first time they've heard this sound.  All were yelling as they ran, "M&Ms!  M&Ms!  I'll help clean them up!"

Aren't they just the sweetest?  

And in case you are wondering, yes, I had them put those M&Ms back in the bag.   Well, the ones that they couldn't squirrel away in their incredibly stretchable cheeks.  Five second rule, combined with the fact that Star cleaned the floor this morning, means I will not waste $3 in vitamins.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Our Vacation Wrap-up

Every year I lose my husband for a week and get my high school boyfriend back.  During the drive, the kids can tell when we are getting close to the vacation house, because with each minute, my husband loses a year in maturity.

This past week we took our 10th vacation with our friend from high school and his family.  His family consists of his wife and their 13 year old son.  Yeah, it's a vacation for us.  For them, they gain a whole mess of kids for the week.

I took 411 photos during the week, so get comfy.

This year we went to Galena, Illinois, with a couple of days spent in Dubuque, Iowa.

Occasionally, we let our tourist show.  I carried my camera around my neck, and we went to some of the popular attractions.

Belvedere.  Before Chicago was the big, booming city, Galena was the place to be.  There are so many old, beautiful mansions all over town.

I don't care who you are, this is just plain funny.  We did a big ol' U-turn after we caught a glimpse of this statue.  Everyone jumped out, got the photo, and jumped back in the van.

If there is a cave, we will go in it.  Of the many, many caves we have been in, this is the first time that the guide left us in there by ourselves while he went to get some more people to join the tour.  It was immediately after he pointed out the valuable crystals all over the walls and ceiling.

Both Galena and Dubuque are ridiculously hilly.  In the mid-1800's, the mayor of Dubuque got tired of the 20 minute carriage ride to get to the bottom of the cliff.  He built an elevator from his back door to the street below.  Now, it's just a fun, cheap, touristy thing to do.

Looking over downtown Dubuque.

We decided to do some geocaching in Galena.  When we made the choice to walk to the clues, we failed to take the hills into consideration.  These stairs were actually a short-cut to the place we needed to go.

After the 4th of 6 clues, the kids and one very vocal, whiny adult staged a sit-in.  They refused to move until Hubby went and got the van.

The fort from the Blackhawk War.

Mostly, though, during our vacations, we pretend we are locals. 

We go to the parks and hike.

We climb trees.

We swim.


We find fairs.  This year we went to the Dubuque County Fair.  One activity was a Pop Quiz competition.

An interpretive center at the state park.

Overlooking the Mississippi River.

And we always, always find a baseball diamond to play some whiffle ball.

Oh how I love a vacation.  Especially with wonderfully fun friends we've known most of our lives.

We are blessed.

And sore.  Oh my word, we are getting old and out of shape.  The whiffle ball/kickball/soccer-fest about killed us.  Hubby and I are barely able to walk today.

The unpacking is going to take a loooong time.

Have a lovely day!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Brotherly Love is a Great Motivator

The suitcases are packed.  The tomatoes are canned.   The library books are in the car.  The good-byes have been said to my friend.  I am about to head to bed, but I need to write this down before I forget.

Both Buttercup and Giant take piano lessons.  She is on year four or so, while he has only been taking them for one year.  A couple of weeks ago, Giant told me that he didn't want to take piano anymore.  I expected this, as Buttercup did the same thing after the first year.  I told him to stick it out a little longer, as piano lessons get much more fun once you can play longer songs that you actually know.

This week, he came home with some new songs.  He actually sat down to practice on his own, which never happens.    Even though it was very start and stop, I easily recognized it as "It's a Small World."

I yelled to him, "Didn't you tell your piano teacher that this song isn't allowed in the house?" 

A strong dislike for this song has been passed down from generation to generation of women in my family.  My grandma went on this ride at Disney and was stuck on it for over an hour.   It started with her, and it has happened to my mom and me, too.  Not for as long, but stuck nonetheless. 

He replied, "I asked her if I could play it." 

I immediately thought, "Oh, isn't that sweet.  He picked it to remind him of our trip and how funny Cuckoo was on the ride.  Cuckoo loved it, and we had to ride the ride..."

Before I could finish my thought he added, "I wanted to annoy Star.  He hates this song." 

He was actually practicing because he wanted to nail it before Star came home from camp.  Plus, he is hoping there is a piano in the house we rented for vacation, so he can play it from memory the whole week. 

Ah, brothers.

Well, at least he's practicing and enjoying the piano.  I think I'm happy about that.

Here's to hoping there is NO piano on vacation.

Have a nice week!

Packing for Vacation-This is How We Do It

Today, we pack.  We are leaving for vacation tomorrow, so today I thought I'd share some packing tips on how to do it quickly and efficiently.  I have to say, after all of the traveling we've done, I am a pro at this.

1.  Pack as you think of things, and make a list of things you can't.  For about a week before our trip, I have a spot set up in our piano room for the vacation things.  When I think of some odd item we will need, I grab it and put it in there.  For example, I added a few games to the stack a few days ago.  They are with the food and paper goods we purchased on Tuesday.  (Each year for vacation, the kids are each allowed to pick one "junk" cereal they normally aren't allowed to have, and I'll throw in some cookies and chips we never buy.)  For things we are using and can't pack until later in the week, I have an ongoing list.  Things like chargers, camera, and boys' blankies are on it.  
2.  Let your kids do the work.  I don't go from room to room collecting the clothes they will need.  I certainly don't trust them to pack on their own, though.  I gather the children and sit myself down on the landing outside their bedrooms with the large suitcase and any other bags I need.  I then call out the first items on the list, such as, "two pairs of pajamas and your bathing suit."  The kids race to their drawers, grab the items, and bring them back to me.  I check to make sure the items are correct, then put them where I want them.  Even the two year old gathers his own clothes.  Once everyone has returned, I call out the next item, "four clean pairs of shorts and four clean, matching T-shirts."   When they return, I check to make sure that they do, in fact, match and that they do, in fact, have the correct number.  This step is usually when I have to send a child back for a redo.  Inevitably, at least one child will bring back a pair of shorts full of holes or a shirt with stains all over it.  The entire process of packing their clothes takes 20 minutes, tops.  I also use this method when gathering the last minute items from Tip #1.

3.  Organize by activity or where it will go when you get there.  Put all swimming gear together, including suits, towels, goggles, and sunscreen.  All shoes will be put on and taken off at the door of the rental house/hotel, so put all extra shoes in one bag.  If you will be staying overnight somewhere on your drive to the final destination, pack one small suitcase with everything you will need for that night, including sheets for a Pack-n-Play, diapers for the night, and any baby items you will need to restock the diaper bag.  (No need to unload the entire car for one night.)  We run the Turkey Trot every year in Ohio on Thanksgiving morning, so all we need for the run for all eight of us, including gloves, hats, and running shoes, goes in one bag.  I have even been known to label the different bags, so everyone knows what each bag contains.

4.  Pack the car yourself.  No one is allowed to load anything into the van but me.  Not even Hubby.  They do carry things to the van, but they leave it in the driveway next to the van.  I load things in the opposite direction that I'll need them.  Since I am the one that packed everything, I am the only one who knows what will be needed when.  If I let Hubby or the kids pack, the overnight bag for the first night would be shoved under the seat, behind the big suitcase and the bags of food for the final destination.

5.  Keep in mind the shape of your vehicle when packing.  I know what fits where in our van.  I have to, because a 12-passenger van doesn't have much room in the "trunk" area.  I need to use every nook and cranny I can find.  A package of diapers fits perfectly between the side of the van and the post of the back seat.  The large suitcase fits perfectly under the back seat, as long as I don't over stuff it.  A 20-gallon tote fits nicely in the trunk, so I put food and paper products for the trip in that instead of having a bunch of grocery bags.  Plus, I can stack things on top of it, and it can be used as the laundry basket at the rental.  And finally, keep it steady.  This is really the reason that Hubby isn't allowed to pack.  His method of packing and stacking our stuff ensures that it all falls out on top of the unsuspecting soul who opens the door. 

6.  Pack some newspaper with your shoes.  This isn't just a vacation tip, but a general tip for everyday.  If your tennis shoes get wet, don't put them in the dryer.  Simply stuff a bunch of newspaper inside of them.  The newspaper sucks up all of the water, and well before morning, your shoes will be dry.  My kids always take some newspaper to camp for just this reason.

That's all for now.  I've gotta get to gettin'.  Besides packing, I've got some tomato canning to do, a library run for books for the car ride, and a little good-bye play time at the playground with our friends moving to Japan.  They leave tomorrow, too. 

Have a lovely week! 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

It Rained!!!

For 43 days we've watched and wondered.  We've watched our grass turn brown and crunchy.  We've watched water levels in rivers, lakes, and ponds drop lower and lower.  We've watched animals do desperate things in their search for water. 

As the raincoats hung unused on the coat rack

we wondered how long it could last.  We wondered, and honestly got concerned, that this was going to be our new norm.

As mandatory water bans took effect, we realized just how vulnerable we really are.  Regardless of how smart we humans are, regardless of how much technology we have, we can't make water. 

As we watched farmers' fields burn up and become useless, our thoughts went to places we didn't want them to go.  As days and days stacked up with temperatures 20-25 degrees above normal, we began discussing long-term effects. 

As storms in the distance taunted us, over and over again, we began to be afraid of them.  Lightening without rain can be devastating, especially when your house is in the middle of 200 acres of dry, harvested wheat.

And then, on Day 43, there is hope.  It starts with the thunder claps in the distance, which isn't new.  It just means to start praying that the lightening isn't doing any damage.

Within 15 minutes, the seconds between the lightening and the thunder get fewer and fewer, until they are simultaneous.  Kids and dogs alike jump in fright as the thunder booms right over our heads.  Well, except for Cuckoo.  He thinks it is just plain cool.

I smelled it first.  You know that wonderful smell of rain.  I can tell you that it is a smell you don't forget.  As soon as I got a whiff of it, I knew that this wasn't going to be a storm that passed us by.

A few raindrops hit the ground, and we started to cheer.

And finally, after 43 days, the heavens opened up and poured down on top of us.

I am not joking when I say texts were sent and calls were made all over town to celebrate the storm.

I think I actually heard Nature sigh a great big, "Aaahhhh."

I didn't even care that my laundry was still on the line, getting soaked.  I hadn't taken it off the line when the thunder started, figuring that, once again, it was a false alarm.  Once I realized the rain was coming, it was too late. 

For about 15 minutes, it rained.  Sure, it came with ground-shaking thunder, and lightening so close that the lights in the house crackled, but it rained.

And as soon as the thunder and lightening passed, outside we went, to celebrate and enjoy the ability to be wet and muddy.

With the passing of the thunder and lightening, the rain stopped, too.  So Giant taught the little boys how to make their own.

After getting the green light from me, ("By all means, jump in those mud puddles!") Giant tried to break the World's Record for Biggest Splash,

which showed just how long it has been since we've seen mud.  Cuckoo, who used to cover himself with dirt and mud on a daily basis, was distraught after he was splashed.

Despite his mud issues, we couldn't stop celebrating.

We couldn't stop watching the water dripping off of everything.

Even the water dripping from the clothes on the line made me smile.

This crazy celebrating wasn't confined to just our house.  I heard that at a softball game, spectators who were huddling under tents to stay shaded during the game, came out to dance in the sprinkles. 

The rain we got didn't even come close to changing the incredible drought we are experiencing.  The crops won't be saved.  The lakes won't be refilled.

But our spirits were certainly improved.

For a short time, we forgot to worry.  We forgot to be concerned.  We forgot to feel vulnerable.

We simply celebrated the wonderful look and feel and smell of rain.

Phoenix and Star are at Boy Scout camp this week.  Oh how I hope that they got some rain, too.  And that they jumped and danced and celebrated it.

Have a lovely day!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I NEED a Bigger Brain

Around age 38 my brain hit full.   It is filled with all sorts of things, both helpful and trivial, but it can't fit one other bit of info inside it.

Unfortunately, I still have lots of things to learn.  When I learn something new, my brain immediately drops something else.  I really wish I had control over what was dropped and what was kept. 

If I was in on the conversation, I would say, "I really don't need to remember that we had a dog named Sugarbear when I was growing up."

Instead my brain keeps me out of the loop and decides that I no longer get to remember the name of my best friend's child.  Turns out to be quite embarrassing when I see him and say, "Hi, Bart!" when his name is actually Tony. 

This week, I had a lot to learn.  I am afraid of what my brain has dumped in order to store this new information. I will, as always, have to find out the hard way. 

Today, I will let you in on all of the new, important things now in residence in my head.

1.  Van maintenance should include more than an oil change every 5,000 miles.  The van has 97,500 miles on it, and the warranty expires at 100,000.  The steering wheel does some serious shimmying and shaking when it reaches the speed of 50mph, and it needed some service anyway, so I got it in to the shop.  I get a call a couple of hours later.  Not a good call.  There are two issues that are covered under the warranty, something about power steering fluid leaking.  The rest is not covered, as it is out of sheer stupidity that it needs done.  The shaking is caused by the fact that my tires haven't been rotated since we bought them.  So, I need new tires.  The brake pads are down to almost metal to metal.  And the car needs aligned.  Basically, he called to tell me, "Come up with a nice big chunk of change to fix this mess you created." 

2.  The kids are actually listening to me.  Sure, it's only so that they can use my words against me, but they are listening.  We frequently have to discuss the difference between needs and wants.  "I need" statements elicit quite the speech from me.  First, do you really "need" it, or do you simply really "want" it?  (or do you "need" new socks because you haven't done laundry in ages and don't have clean ones???) And secondly, do not just tell me what you need and expect me to hop to it and get it for you.  If you actually do need something for school, ask me politely, tell me when you need it, then write a note to help me remember.
Yesterday, we had some craft time.  Giant wanted me to take a picture of his Skittle creation.

I then turned to Turken, bent down to take his photo, and said, "I need one of you, too!"  Without missing a beat, he answered, "You don't need a picture of me." 

3.  We are more of a danger to our tomatoes than the drought.   I was so very excited to see the number of tomatoes on our plants.  Bushels of them.  Of all varieties.  And then last week they started to turn red.  I would pick one, then come to find that the bottom of it was completely brown and squishy.  Rotted, if you will.

I was seriously bummed.  Luckily, we live just down the street from a major vegetable farm.  I went there to get the tomatoes I would need for the party on Saturday, and told the woman about our tomato troubles.  She said, "Well, that sounds a whole lot like bloom rot."  She whipped out her smart phone, looked it up, and sure enough, that's exactly what was going on.  Supposedly it is caused by extreme drought or over watering.  Oh, well that answers that.  We are in the middle of one serious drought!

Hubby wasn't convinced.  He Googled it and found that it is actually caused when there is an extreme drought, and the doofus gardener gives them lots of water, waits a few days, which is long enough for the ground to dry again, then waters them, then lets it dry, then waters, ...  Yeah, that's exactly what we were doing.
So, we stopped watering.  And now we are getting some lovely, tasty tomatoes.

4.   The show "Duck Dynasty" is absolutely hysterical.

5.  The washing machine is actually learning from my kids.  My children are given chores to do every day.  All told, they spend maybe half an hour a day doing them.  We've had some trouble here lately with them not doing their best work.  They will make a good start, then putter out and not finish the job.  I am having to find just the right way to talk to and help each child actually get the chores done properly.  My washer is now doing the same thing.  Each day, it is given a chore to do.  One it was made for.  And it will start out all gung-ho, washing and agitating, and rinsing.  When I go to empty it, I find a heap of sopping wet clothes.  In order to get it to spin (finish its job) I have to find just the right way to talk to it and help it along so it will actually spin the clothes.  (I set it on spin and turn it on while the lid is open, reach in and wiggle the drum, then give it a good Wheel of Fortune spin before I quickly shut the lid and let her go.  Don't ask how I finally figured out the system.)  And just like my children, it won't accept help from anyone but me.  When the kids do their laundry, I have to do the whole spin dance for them.  Fortunately, I am not as attached to the machine as I am the kids.  I will have no trouble sending it on its way and replacing it with a much nicer machine as soon as we get home from vacation.

6.  Colorfully dyed hair is cool.  Whether it be accidental

or intentional.

Which leads us to...

7.   Kool-aid is an inexpensive, temporary way to dye hair.  Buttercup really wanted to dye her hair this summer.  She did the research to find out how to do it and how long it lasts.  It should come out within 3 weeks, and school doesn't start for 4 weeks, so I let her do it, as long as she dyed just the ends.  It wasn't until the bottom 3 inches of her hair were red that I told her, "If this isn't out before school starts, we are going to have to cut your hair."  The look on her face was priceless. 

8.  Lastly, we figured out how to grow potatoes.   We knew that you were supposed to mound around the potato plant throughout the growing season, as the potatoes turn toxic if they hit the sunshine.  That first year, Hubby mounded them with straight compost dirt.  Burned every single plant.  Last year, we figured out how to deal with potato bugs.  This year, we put all of our knowledge together to grow this:

Plus another bucket and a half worth.  Yippee!!

This afternoon I will be canning potatoes for the first time.

9.  Fix-a-Flat is for emergency use only.  I thought there was only going to be eight things.  However, I just got a call from Car Guy.  He noticed that we had used Fix-a-Flat at some point on the van tires.  (Totally blaming Hubby on this one!)  Apparently that stuff is horrible.  It sloshes around in your tire forever and throws the balance off.  Plus, it eats away at those fancy new sensors that tell you when your tire is low on air.  Basically, Fix-a-Flat ain't fixin' nothin' but the economy, as it would cost me $400 to replace the sensors it ate up.  I'm thinking that I do not need those fancy new sensors.

And there you have another edition of "What I Learned This Week." 

I'll be on vacation next week, and I'm planning on not learning a darn thing the whole time I'm gone. 

I'm afraid that if I learn something, my brain may decide that I don't need to remember how to get home.

Have a lovely day!

Monday, July 16, 2012

If You Are on a Diet, Just Come Back Tomorrow

On Saturday night I threw a going away party for one of my best friends.  She's moving to Japan for three whole years, so I decided we would have a real American BBQ to send her off.  Who knows when she'll get to eat our "normal" food again?

The plan was to set tables up under the tree out front (after getting rid of any random raccoon and bird remains, of course) with tablecloths and flowers.  Very fancy for the farm.  As in, it's never happened before.  We had to wait until 5 minutes before the party started to actually set up.  The entire afternoon it looked like we might finally get some rain.  We didn't.  It turned out to be a perfect evening for an outdoor party.  (One benefit of a drought, no mosquitoes to drive you mad.)

On the menu I had burgers and brats, BBQ pulled pork, mac and cheese, a version of scalloped potatoes, fruit salad, tomatoes in a garlic/vinegar/oregano dressing, Polynesian spinach salad, grilled corn/yellow squash/red onion salsa, apple pie, and Chocolate Delight.

On Friday, I did the grocery shopping and started the prep work for the food.  All went swimmingly until the pie.

The kids believe that the timer on the stove is a video game timer and nothing more.  When the timer goes off, to them it simply means some one's time is up, so they just turn it off.  The video game player will be alerted to the time up signal by the person behind him in line to play.

This is a problem when I am baking something. 

Like the apple pie for the party.

The pie was halfway done when I went upstairs to help Phoenix and Star pack for camp.  They were in and out of the room, up and down the stairs while I stayed in their room to help.

After a while, I started thinking that the timer for the pie should have gone off by then.  I went downstairs to find that the timer wasn't keeping time of anything.  And my pie was way overdone.  Which is when my frustration came out.

"Who turned off the timer????!!!!"  Can you hear the frustration in my voice?  It is not the first time that this has happened.

I gathered and grilled the big kids.  No one remembers doing it.  It has become that much of a reflex.  (I know, someone could have been lying, seeing as how irritated I was.  But my kids are terrible liars.  I can spot it a mile away.)  I then asked Turken if he turned it off.  He answered, "No, I'm not tall enough to reach it."   We never did find the culprit.

So, I was stuck without a pie and no time to make another.   I moved to Plan B.

Plan B should be in every one's back pocket.  It is the simplest dessert to make, yet tastes so very good. 

deep dish graham cracker crust
 a quarter of a gallon of vanilla ice cream
4 oz. Cool Whip
heaping spoonful of creamy peanut butter (I just use the big spoon in our silverware drawer.)
chocolate sauce to drizzle

Let the ice cream melt a bit to make it easier to mix.  On low speed, mix the ice cream, Cool Whip, and peanut butter.  Pour the mixture into the pie crust.  Drizzle chocolate sauce on top.  To make it fancy, I drizzle in waves, then use a butter knife to drag the sauce in the opposite direction. 

Cover and put in the freezer until the ice cream sets.

Done and done.

I usually make two of them at a time, since the recipe calls for half a gallon of ice cream and half a container of Cool Whip.

And because it is such a big hit everywhere, I'll let tell you of the other dessert I made, what Grandma calls Chocolate Delight.  However, I was told at the party that it has another name, The Robert Redford.  Named as such because you would be equally happy having either the dessert or Robert Redford.    It really is a little bit of heaven.

1 stick butter
1 cup flour
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup confectioners sugar
8 oz cream cheese
16 ounce Cool Whip
Chocolate pudding (I made one large box of the Jello instant pudding)

Preheat oven to 350.
Mix (I use a fork or my hands) the butter, flour, and walnuts until crumbly and pat into a 13x9 pan until slightly brown, 10 minutes or so.  Let the crust cool completely.

Mix on low speed the sugar, cream cheese, and 8oz of Cool Whip.

Spread mixture over crust.

Spread pudding over cream cheese layer.

Spread remaining Cool Whip on top.

Sprinkle with crushed walnuts if desired.

Cover and stick in the fridge.

Man, this stuff is good.

The dishes I made for the meal were really good and super healthy, but those recipes were from cookbooks and magazines.  The desserts are recipes that my grandma always made for me.

 So, the party is over.  The house is (mostly) back in order.  My friend and I are in panic mode, seeing each other as much as possible before she leaves on Saturday.  We're both trying to ignore the inevitable, but every once in a while the thoughts creep in and I get sick to my stomach. 

I know it will be a grand adventure for her and her family, but I'm still selfish and sad.

Although, the leftover desserts certainly are helping.

Can we say, "emotional eater?"

Have a lovely day!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Like Shootin' Fish in a Barrel, Only We Don't Have a Gun, and It Ain't No Fish

Let's talk pigs. 

We are in the process of feeding out our fifth round of hogs.  They really are easy animals to raise.  As long as you feed and water them, give them a nice mud puddle on really hot days, and a bit of shelter from the storms, you'll have yourself some good meat by Labor Day.

Usually, that's how it goes.

Sometimes there are a few hiccups.

One month into our second year of raising pigs, I went out to feed them.  One pig didn't come out to meet me at the fence.  I went into the barn to investigate, and to my horror found a dead pig up against the wall. 

What does a lady do when she finds a hundred-pound dead pig in the barn, you ask?

OK, so I can't say lady, as no respectable lady would find herself in a situation that has even a remote possibility of coming across a dead pig.

So, what does a woman who became a farmer completely by accident do when she comes across a dead pig in the barn, you ask?

She hollers and runs. Duh.

But, I'm stubborn, and I'm no wimp, so I went back to the barn to put my non-existent vet knowledge to work.

I observed no cuts or marks of any kind to insinuate foul play, and since I don't know how to take a pig's pulse, I poked it.  Then lightly nudged it.   And finally gave it a little kick.

I finally concluded that this pig would not be gracing any one's table come September.

When Hubby came home, we wrapped it in a tarp and drug it to the back field.  Hubby dug what looked like a nice big hole, so we dumped the pig into it.

Funny how a hole looks so much bigger than it really is.

We weren't exactly wanting to see its feet sticking out when we mowed, so we had to haul that blasted pig back out of the hole.  Hubby dug some more, and this time the pig actually fit.

The next year, we made it through the whole summer without incident.  One week before their meeting with the butcher, I once again went out to feed them some breakfast.  Don't worry, I didn't come across a dead pig in the barn. 

I came across a 300 pound pig on the OUTSIDE of the fence, wedged in a little ditch against the fence, with a huge chunk out of its backside.

I certainly didn't need to pull out the vet license for this one.

I searched that entire barn and fence, and couldn't find a single place for that pig to have gotten out.  We assume a coyote or two got into the pen somehow, cornered the pig, and in its panic it managed to push the gate open enough to get out.  It then would have had to run to the complete other side of the fencing to get to where it died. 

We learned three things from this incident.

1.  We must be seriously sound sleepers that we didn't hear all of this going down.
2.  Our dogs are of no use in a coyote attack.
3.  Vultures are Jewish.

We knew that there was no way Hubby could dig a hole big enough for a 300 pound pig, so we decided to drag it out to the far side of the back field for the vultures.  If an animal gets hit by a car on the road in front of our house, five vultures take care of it within minutes. We figured we'd supply the food for their own Labor Day family reunion.

First, we had to use the mini-van's hitch to get the thing out of the ditch.  We then transferred the chain to the Dixie Chopper for the ride to the back field. 

If you have a weak stomach, scroll down real fast to get past the next photo.  It ain't pretty.


A few days later, a big ol' hunk of pig leg showed up in our front yard.  Our blasted dogs followed the trail and found their hog prize.  Every couple of days, another body part landed at the front of our house.  Not one vulture ever came.

 I can only conclude that vultures don't eat pork.  And the only good reason for not eating a delicious pork chop would be a religious reason.  Like being Jewish. 

Since then, we haven't had a single pig die.  Well, except for the whole butchering thing, of course.

Wondering what this has to do with fish in a barrel?  I'm getting to it.  It has to do with Hiccup #2.

Last August, we had a bit of a drought.  About a month without rain.  In their search for water, wild birds became a nuisance.  They were all over the dog's water bowl, pooping all over the porch.  And then they started going for the pigs' water.  When the waterer was full, they didn't have a problem.  Once the water level got down a bit, big trouble.  Every single day we would find a dead bird or two floating.  Every day we had to clean out the pig waterer. 

We tried covering the waterer with a board, but pigs are way too curious.  They wouldn't leave the thing alone, knocking it over every time.  We aren't welders, so we just dealt with the dead birds.

I don't know if you've heard, but we're having one heck of a drought in Iniana this year.  This means that the birds are back.  Sometimes there are three dead birds in that darn waterer. 

Well, apparently this drought has crossed a line.  We haven't had a drop of rain since June 4, and the temperature has been well above normal since before then.  Birds aren't just drowning themselves trying to get a drink.  They seem to be dying mid-flight, as I'm finding dead birds all over the yard.

And now we have creatures of a very different sort.

Today Hubby found this in the pig water:

Yeah, an opossum.  This time, it was he who got to pull out the non-existent vet knowledge to find that this opossum was NOT dead.  Just terribly water-logged.

The pigs knew it, as they kept climbing up to see what was going on.

If you look closely, on the bottom right of the waterer, you will see one of the two birds also in there.

So, the next question became, how to get the opossum out of there.  Hubby's first idea was to put more water in the barrel so it couldn't touch bottom.  He figured it would die soon after.  Well, opossums must take swim lessons, because this guy is a really good floater.   When it wasn't dying, Hubby tried to help it along.  He tried to hold it under water with a rake.   Poor guy is too nice.  He couldn't do it. 

I suggested he take that rake, get under the opossum, and fling it over his head and out into the yard where the dogs could get it.  The wimp didn't think the risk of the opossum falling on his head was worth it. 

Finally, Phoenix showed himself to be the brains of the family. 

"Why don't you just fill the waterer all the way so it can climb out on its own?"


Have a lovely day!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I Have Plans...Kinda

Can we just strike the word "do" from the English language?  I've been hearing it a lot lately, and it's wearing me out.

This happens when I have a youngest child closing in on turning three.  It happened when Giant turned three, and it's happening now that Cuckoo will be.

People start asking, "What will you DO when he goes to school?"

Forget the fact that, thanks to Indiana's cut-off date, he won't even go to kindergarten for three more years.  He will only go to one year of preschool, so I've got two whole years to worry about what I'll DO.

At this point, this is what I foresee happening:

Drop him off at his first day of school, then go straight to the salon for a haircut.  I am lucky to get my hair cut three times a year.  When I get the chance to have time alone, I will give my hair the attention it deserves. 

I will then go home and sit on the couch.  I will listen to the sound of absolutely nothing.  In the seven years we've lived in this house, I have not had even 10 minutes in it by myself.  I will luxuriate in the complete and utter silence.  Unless there's a squirrel in the yard.  Then I'll listen to the dogs barking.  Other than that, silence.  Until the phone rings, and I answer it, because I always answer it when a family member isn't at home.  And then it won't be the school telling me that another child has maimed himself on the playground and needs to go to the ER.  It will be Citibank, telling me for the 217th time that this is their second and final call to let me know about the chance to cut my percentage rate in half.  I'll want to slam the phone down, but with these new fancy phones, I can't do that.  I'll be annoyed that I can't slam the phone and must simply push, "off."  It's just not the same.   Once I'm annoyed, the silence won't be as much fun, so I'll go do the next thing on my list of things to DO without children.

I will swim.  I will go to the YMCA, get a membership for one, and head to the pool.  Of all the sports I have done, swimming is my favorite.   Besides the fact that it means, once again, some silence, I love the feel of the water whooshing past me as I beautifully execute my freestyle stroke, do an awesome flip-turn, and head back.  Over and over and over again.  Feeling those muscles firming up with every lap. It's something I haven't been able to do for many, many years, as it's not like I could tell the kids to play while I did some laps.  So swimming I will do.  Except that this old body hasn't been in a pool to swim laps for a good 15 years.  My freestyle will be given up after two laps, as I won't be able to breathe.   I'll switch to breaststroke, where at least I'll be able to breathe, but there won't be any cool flip turns.  And it won't be silent, as my head will come above water every stroke.  And when my head comes above water, I'll be able to see all of the 75 year old men and women "swimming" laps with me, because really, have you ever seen anyone between the ages of 18 and 75 swimming laps? (outside of training for the Olympics, that is)  No, you haven't.  Seeing all of those elderly folks surrounding me will get my mind wandering.  I'll start thinking about how old I'm getting.  I'll think about how old my parents are getting.  I'll think about what life will be like when my parents are 75.  I'll think about how much pain I'm in after only swimming 4 laps of breast stroke.  I'll start getting depressed, thinking about how I'm probably half-way to dead.  And who can swim laps after she realizes she is on the backside of "the hill," careening towards a nursing home?

The swimming cap will be torn off,  (Yes, a swim cap.  Can't ruin my new hairdo with a bunch of chlorine, now can I?)  and I will move on to the next thing on my to-DO list.  I will call Hubby and ask him out to lunch.  He will of course say yes, because he loves me and wants to spend as much time with me as possible.  We'll meet at a lovely restaurant downtown, where I'll have all the time I want to look at a menu without once glancing at the kids' meals.  I will choose a yummy dish of creamy something or other, and we'll gaze into each other's eyes while we wait for our food.  While we gaze, my mind will be racing, trying to think of things to discuss that have nothing to do with the children, because if I talk about the children, I will cry, unhappy that my baby is at his first day of school.  Hubby will try not to think about the things he should be doing in his office, as he will most likely have a huge closing the next morning.  As we eat, in the silence, which is good at home or in the pool, but not at lunch with your favorite person, a client of his will approach us.  Hubby will introduce me, and we'll have a lovely little conversation.  Until the client turns to me and says, "So what do you DO that brings you downtown?"   And I'll have to restrain myself.  I'll want to slap him, seeing as how he used my least favorite word,  (Yes, I like it even less than the F word.) but that would be very bad for Hubby.  If Hubby's client gets slapped by his wife, Hubby would lose said client.  The client would spread it around town that Hubby is married to a crazy woman, Hubby would lose all clients.  That would mean I would have to take a teaching job, which is certainly something to DO.  But we don't want to go there, so I don't slap him.  I'll just smile and say something stupid like," Nothing.  I just missed my guy."  He'll nod, tell Hubby that it was nice to see him, then head back to his own table.  We'll finish our lunch, exchange kisses, and go our separate ways.

I will then move on to the last thing on my list of things to DO.  I'll go to the store.  Grocery store that is.  Oh, how I want to go to the store by myself.  So I can think.  So I can plan.  So I can make it through the store without having to double-back five times.  Without having to tell anyone, "Get your hands off!  No one wants your germs on their food."  Without having to come up with fun, distracting games to keep little ones from getting bored and rambunctious.  Without older ones saying, "We should have chicken nuggets for dinner," or, "We need some Oreos."  It really irks me when they say things like "we should" and "we need".  So, I'll go all alone.  And I'll get everything we actually need, and everything we should get.  And then I'll see a mom with her little boy.  He'll be "helping" her put the groceries on the conveyor belt.  And my heartstrings will tug.  I'll start to tear up.  I'll think of my littlest guy at his first day of kindergarten, and I will cry.  And I will blubber as I tell this poor mother to embrace every single moment with her baby, 'cause time will go faster than she ever planned, and before she knows it, she'll be out of shape and wrinkly, home alone or swimming with old people.  She'll grab her child in fright as I lean in to give her little one a hug.  Before security can be called, I'll run out of the store and to my car, where I will sit and cry.  Because it will finally hit me.  My babies aren't at home with me.  I really do have to find something to DO. 

And then I'll look at my phone, because really, who besides my husband wears a watch anymore, realize school is almost out, dry my eyes, and head over to the pick-up line.  My babies will get in the car, all talking at once to tell me about their days, and I will smile.

I will still have something to DO. 

Have a lovely day!

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Fun in Dysfunctional

Growing up, I always dreaded the question, "How many siblings do you have?"  An innocent question for most people my age, as no one I knew had divorced parents.  For me, not so much.  I answered it differently each time, depending on who was asking.  In a casual conversation, they got the short answer of three.  Someone who knew me a little better got the three full, two half version.  It could be a year before a friend knew that I actually had three full, three half, and two step siblings.  There was just always so much explaining.  So many stories.  Some painful, some not.  Some shocking, some not.  Either way, the question and answer was always distracting.  (You can read about some of the family history here.)

As a teenager, I spent a whole lot of time watching my little (half) sisters.   All of this together time meant I got to have lots of discussions with them.  I'll never forget the one where I had to explain who everyone in our family actually was.  A five year old doesn't really get the whole my mom, your mom thing.  Yes, we're all brothers and sisters.  No, we don't have the same mom.  Yes, we have the same dad.  No, my mom isn't your mom.  She's not related to you in any way.  Your mom is my step mom. And then we moved on to the grandparents.  Over and over again we hashed it out.  She just wanted to understand.   At the time, I didn't realize that this conversation would be peanuts compared to the ones I'd have to have with my own children. 

This past weekend was my dad's annual 4th of July party.  Basically, his favorite day of the year.  His Christmas in July.  The day that all of his children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews, and various other relatives (including my mom, his ex-wife) gather at his house for some fun.  Each and every year there are new people to meet.   Every year new people are added to our family, sometimes by birth, sometimes by marriage, sometimes by more creative means. 

All of the kids just jump in and play.  They don't ask any questions except, "What is your name?"  It's not until after the party, when we're in the car, that the questions come.  "Who is so-and-so's parents?" "How is so-and-so related to us?"  "Why haven't we met them before?"  

Oh the questions.  And the explaining.   And the confusion.  And the explaining.  And the questions.

I always chuckle when I see families on reunion vacations with the T-shirts that read things like, "Mom," "Dad," "Oldest Sister."  We couldn't do that for our family.  We'd have to have ones that say things like, "Sister from first wife," or "Cousin that was given up for adoption and reunited 38 years later."  Oh, the spectacle we'd be.

The good thing about all of this is, nothing shocks us anymore.  People show up, and they are embraced into the fold.  Well, as long as they can laugh and play cards they're embraced.  Otherwise they are just tolerated:) 

So, to the party.  The frivolity.  The laughing.  The food.  The family. (I'm only including photos of my immediate family, as I never asked the others about posting on the blog.)

There was the usual slip-n-slide in the backyard

and the baby pool out front.  Although this year, Dad went all out and bought a bigger pool.  Being that the temperature was about 98 degrees that day, someone was always in it.

Dad worked the grill

while everyone visited.

one of my sisters with Cuckoo

Buttercup and a cousin

The party was normal in that you never knew what surprise was coming up next.

On the agenda this year, an egg race conjured up by my step mom.

It took about five minutes to figure out the rules and the teams, and then to get the adults out of the way.  Several eggs were broken before anyone even said, "Go!"

One of my nieces, dropper of two eggs.

But the race did eventually happen,

and everyone was a winner.

Cuckoo ran over to show his great-grandma his trophy.  He told her that the trophy read, "Don't drop your egg."

The biggest surprise of all came when familiar music could be heard from down the street.  The kids immediately dropped what they were doing and ran.

My dad managed to get the ice cream truck to make an appearance.

one of my nephews

OK, so some adults dropped what they were doing, too.

Cuckoo had an uncle open his ice cream, then was horrified when it was almost eaten by that uncle.

It was 98 degrees, and an ice cream truck pulled up.  You know you would have ran, too.

a niece being cleaned up by an almost niece

After ice cream, the girls went inside for a little time at my sister's "spa".

Well, the girls and Cuckoo.  He also got his nails painted, his eyes done up, and his belly inked.

showing my mom his new pretty pink nails

He especially enjoyed showing off the eyes.

Being that it was so hot (Did I mention it was 98 degrees?) not much official corn hole was played.   However, a few unofficial tosses were made.

And lastly, a pause in our celebration of our country's birth to celebrate the birth of two growing boys. 

a nephew

Before the party began, some old photos were being circulated on Facebook.  This one got quite a bit of attention.

The tall one is me with my growing-out mullet (I had requested a Dorothy Hamill, but very unfortunately got a mullet instead.) in my middle school track uniform.  My brothers are on my right, and one of my sisters is on my hip. 

My dad wanted another picture, taken in the exact same spot.

Here are the same people, in the exact same spot.  We couldn't do the hair and clothes, but we reenacted it as best we could.

My how time flies.

Our family tree isn't a pretty little tree with the straight branches. Ours is more like a tree that has been struck by lightning.   And where the tree split, little offshoot trees pop up and start their own little branches.. Some branches are gnawed off by a beaver. Some branches have been grafted with another tree to form a completely unique branch connected to the original.

And every 4th of July, that unconventional tree has a party.  To celebrate our country, but more importantly, to celebrate the fact that the tree still stands.  It has wounds, but it also has new growth.  It has strong roots, and those roots can securely hold that tree through the storms to come.

And in another 25 years, we will be able to take another reenactment photo.  Only next time, we'll have props.  I have no doubt that by then my brother will once again be wearing high-waisted, pressed white shorts. 

Have a lovley day!