I am allowed…

… to eat marshmallow peeps at Easter because I like them.

… to have a flip flop collection, and to wear them in the snow when I get the mail. If there is any snow, that is.

… to hang a hammock in February and lie in it on every sunny day.

… to sleep on my husband’s side of the bed when he’s on night shift, just because it feels different than my side of the bed.

… to paint any room I want to paint.

… to throw away clothes that make me feel ugly.

… to dote on my chickens and buy them treats.

… to keep buying children’s books even though my children are not little anymore.

… to put as much cream in my decaf coffee as I want.

… to rearrange the furniture in my house when I need a fresh look, even if it’s the same furniture and the same house and other people think that’s funny.

… to decline politely when I don’t want to play a board game, specifically Monopoly or Life.

… to be a word nerd and make lists of good words and think about ways to put them together.

… to spend money on a writing course and take time to practice what I’m learning.

… to plant flowers everywhere in the garden, even in the vegetable rows.

… to laugh at my wobbly shopping cart wheel and show others how hilarious it is.

… to cry when I’m reading a book that touches my heart or singing a song that expresses my longings.

…to hide the Cadbury mini eggs and dole them out bit by bit so that they last for a while, because the Easter season has the best candy.

… to walk the two miles to the garage to pick up a vehicle that has now been fixed for the very last time, I hope.

My walking buddy

Last night one of our writing prompts was “I am allowed,” and that’s where my thoughts went. Are there things you’re allowed?..

In the Doctor’s Office

My appointment was at 9.

I was 15 minutes early.

The nurse brought me in promptly and here I sit.

She mumbled through her mask.

I couldn’t understand what she was saying.

Are you here for your annual?

My annual?

What even is that if I was here two months ago?

I felt like a dimbulb.

She weighed me with my shoes on.

That’s not fair.

She left a gown and a sheet and whisked out the door.

It’s now 9:20 and I’m noticing that I have forgotten how to breathe in a mask.

There’s not enough air in this room.

There’s not enough air, but this office is chilly.

I put on the gown that strips me of uniqueness.

It is soft and worn by washing, not paper, thank the Lord!

Hundreds of others have worn it and felt the same way I do.

This thought cheers me.

There is a large gap until I find an extra tie that I missed.

My feet are cold.

They are always cold at doctor’s visits.

The window is so high I can only see grey sky.

Lake Erie is right out there and I wish I could see that.

There are posters all over the walls.

I don’t like to look at images of innards.

I prefer to have everything be ok.

I prefer never to go to the doctor.

I don’t see the point of annuals.

Well, I see it, but I don’t feel it.

My husband is a nurse.

He says I should go anyway.

He says they catch things early that way.

I would rather not catch anything.

But that’s the way it is.

I guess he’s actually right.

I do make my own decisions though.

I try to be nice, but I always have a lot of questions before I agree to anything.

I wonder what they keep in all those drawers.

Instruments of indignity, no doubt, but they mean well.

I would be dead without a doctor’s help many years ago, so there is that.

I sure am glad I left my socks on.

Oh, here’s the doctor tapping on the door now.

Well.

I waited a half hour and that appointment took ten minutes tops.

The doctor looked young enough to be my daughter.

She was kind and answered my questions.

She advised me about this stage in my life.

Wacky hormonal stuff.

I asked what she would do if she were me.

That was funny because she is closer to puberty than to mid- life.

She deflected the question smoothly.

She did say the supplements I am taking are a good idea.

And these are my decisions.

It’s up to me.

She asked about scheduling more routine screenings.

I know I am fortunate to have good healthcare, but no thanks.

Make an appointment for an annual next year, she suggested.

Well, at least that makes sense.

Next year sounds annual.

Call or message if you have any questions.

Have a good day!

The Annual Slightly Strange List

of things we are thankful for. These are contributions from various members of the family.

  • Gregory: When I get up and discover that Mom already packed my lunch. (This is the kid who this very morning packed popcorn, Takis, and a dry sandwich from yesterday, ignoring the yogurt and fresh fruit scattered around in obvious places.)
  • A heater to keep the bedroom warm where a window got broken in an exceedingly odd and thoughtless manner.
  • A big brother who brings a replacement window pane and installs it in ten minutes.
  • A garage to park my car, even if it is a primitive one with a dirt floor and no garage door opener.
  • Olivia: Just five minutes without anyone doing anything gross. (Is that too much to ask?)
  • A plant collection on the windowsill, especially the dolphin succulent and the string of pearls, and let’s not forget the baby cacti growing from seeds.
  • Yogurt, mashed potatoes, and all the soft foods because braces…
  • Rita: A heated waterer for the chickens so that I don’t have to constantly haul water for them.
  • Enough turkey to snitch bits while it was being carved the day before Thanksgiving, then eat all I wanted, then have leftovers to put into my pot of Ramen noodles.
  • Addy: Books with other worlds, AKA imagination.
  • A fireplace so I can make fires in the house whenever I want.
  • Siblings to fight with and do stuff.
  • Mine: the desperate person who cracked open a squash with a sharp rock, and discovered it is edible.
  • Rita’s income from her mouse trapline is drying up, with the count standing at sixteen.
  • Seed heads in the garden, so pretty in a monochromatic sort of way that they look good in a vase.
  • Three deer to process for the freezer, and all the scope for learning to make bologna, jerky, etc. etc.
  • Kids who spin clever puns endlessly and who have Opinions About Life and push back and keep me on my toes.
  • Instructional DVD courses for my child who is doing Algebra 1 because I really dislike teaching it, and in fact have forgotten what I knew about it which wasn’t ever much.
  • A husband who puts driveway markers all along its edges so that we can remember through weeks of mild weather that snow is coming and the brown world will be beautiful again.
  • Online shopping, because I love getting packages.
  • Cheese. I am grateful that most of the cheese was not moldy.

Gabe was at work when I quizzed the children. I could sit here for another hour and continue this process of picking things I am thankful for, but right now we need to get going with our school day, which itself is a privilege. Depending who you ask and which day you ask it, of course. 🙂

Have a good one! If you feel like it, tell me something you are thankful for that is not on the approved Sunday school list.

In which I make a fool of myself

for a good cause.

The farmer who is kind enough to load his old hay on my trailer every spring lives just a mile from our house. He and his wife are the nicest sort of people, down to earth and full of country wisdom. Her voice message ends with a cheerful, “Leave a message… blessings!”

This spring when I made my trip for hay, I asked if I may pay for it, and he said, “No, no, just bring me some produce.” As I was driving past this summer I noticed that they have four times more garden than I do. We’re talking a field with like 96 pepper plants and I think they said 200 tomato plants and everything else you can imagine. So tonight when I was digging my red potatoes I thought, “You know what, I don’t think they have potatoes,” and I called them to check.

The farmer’s wife told me that her family makes her so mad because they don’t want to hill potatoes but she would love to have some fresh ones. She is in a wheelchair and can’t grow them herself. I told her I would bring them right down.

I didn’t have a vehicle because it’s in the garage for inspection and my husband is at work. It’s close enough to walk, but I decided to put my box of red potatoes in the basket of the little yellow moped that Gabriel bought this summer. I puttered down the road in the soft light, and all was mellow and lush. Just before the farmer’s lane the moped sputtered and I thought that I should have checked the gas tank, but I made it and parked it.

There was a considerable amount of racket in the yard because the farmer was doing some power washing and the little grandkids were talking to each other in their outside voices. I picked up my box of potatoes and walked up the hill around their vehicles. The dog saw me first, and then the other dog and the other dog and the other dog also saw me. To be truthful, I am not a dog lover at my core, although I’m not really afraid of them. I took a step back just from innate self-preservation, and bumped my leg against the large rocks bordering a flower bed. The dogs crowded closer, a huge black lab with a tongue the size of bread plate, a yellow nondescript mutt with a tail like a baseball bat, a shifty-eyed spotted one who stayed on the periphery and growled, and a very small terrier with a very large ego. I backed up a little further but there was nowhere to go because I was against those rocks. I completely lost my balance and sat down very gracefully in the flower bed, legs stuck out over the rocks, holding my box of potatoes aloft. Not one of them spilled. It was too bad that the farmer’s wife didn’t see me until I was down, because by then it was no longer graceful. I had four dogs crowding around my lap, and I was giggling helplessly, unable to pull myself up. Feebly waving my hand in front of my face so the black lab would stop licking me, I peddled my legs and let her know that I was okay.

Her two grandsons walked over and tried to call off the dogs while the farmer’s wife hollered at her husband who couldn’t hear a thing because the power washer was loud. The grandsons looked at the woman laughing in their flower bed and didn’t know what to do. One of them tentatively held out his hand, and I gave him the potatoes. They didn’t know I suffer from a condition that causes me to lose all control and giggle helplessly when I am in a ludicrous situation, but once the dogs were out of my lap, I struggled to my feet. I was still chortling, so the farmer’s wife knew that I wasn’t mad. She wheeled herself to a quieter spot in the yard, apologizing profusely all the way, even as the dogs continued to leap around and take stabbing licks at my face while the terrier barked. “What in the world is wrong with you?” she yelled. I have been blessed with a number of friends who have large dogs and they all seem to feel the same helplessness when their dogs don’t listen.

We ended up having a great chat under the shade tree where her family had piled the produce they picked in the garden. I felt a little despair in my heart when I saw the buckets of tomatoes, bushels of cabbages, gallons of cherry tomatoes, a half bushel of green peppers, and so on. I don’t know how she does it in a wheelchair, but she was cheerful about it and she was delighted with that box of red potatoes. The black dog eventually quit trying to lick me and sauntered to the backyard, but the yellow dog kept backing up until his tail was between my legs, whacking me hard as he wagged. It was quite ludicrous enough to send me off in another spasm of laughter, but I controlled myself. The shifty-eyed growler was gone, but the terrorist terrier made a tight, barking arc around us every few minutes.

They told me about the neighborhood and how things used to be around here, and what farming is like now, about their family and they wanted to know about mine. Like I said, lovely people.

It was getting a little dark and I needed to moped on home. I prayed a desperate prayer that there would be enough gas in the tank, but this time the answer was no. Of all things, I had to walk back up the hill and there came the dogs! The farmer noticed right away and he was still nice. “Not a problem, happy to give it to you, anytime you need anything just ask.”

He sloshed in a few quarts, but that moped wouldn’t start. The two grandsons stood there and stared again as I vainly pumped the starter pedal, jiggled the choke button, and tried to remember if I was missing something crucial for the starting of a moped. Finally it coughed a bit and then it flooded. I pumped it some more. Nothing. The little boys drew closer in fascination. I got the feeling they were prepared to push it home for me. Finally, blessedly, it purred to life. I said good night and headed home in the twilight. Mission accomplished.

They said next year they will give me more hay and all the barnyard compost I want. I will have to brainstorm something awesome to grow so that I have it to give them in return. I wonder if they like eggplant?

I feel like this moped deserves a small Asian lady to ride it, but I am all it’s got.

These February days…

Hello, friends! I don’t know if anybody remembers when I used to do a post every day in February, the short month? I don’t know how I did it.

We have reached the point of winter where it has settled into our souls, and even though we know in our heads that it will not last always, in our souls it feels like we might as well make plans to continue indefinitely in this season. I saw that Walmart is putting all the snow clothes on clearance. I bought two coats for the older girls. It seemed a reasonable way to spend seven bucks.

Gabe got a mighty itch to buy a snowmobile since we got such a handsome amount of snow. First there were fourteen inches and then a few days later there were ten more inches on top of that. Very little of it melted, so it is quite brilliant outside. He actually did get his hands on an aging snowmobile, apparently one built to go get the groceries in the Arctic, with heated handlebars and all. It is enormous and may reach speeds of 65 mph, requiring a field to make a turn successfully. Yeah, it was quite the thrill, until it died without explanation as he finished the last ride on Sunday night. Now we get to figure out what makes it tick, and maybe the snow will last for a few more months so that we can use it lots more. I believe this could happen. I do heartily endorse finding ways to enjoy it. I break trail down to the creek and walk the trail a few times every day if I can. I remember a Lewis quote: “What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary sparkles are like this!” (edit: I just looked it up. Lewis said “coruscations” instead of “sparkles”. I think in this case, Lewis overdid it.)

Yesterday I was just walking along, minding my own business, when I felt my bum knee go out. It feels as if the kneecap is sliding down beside my knee, only an MRI a few years ago showed that it is only a small piece of cartilage that is floating loose and occasionally giving me grief. As a result, I cannot bend my knee, which is a little unhandy. Eventually it will float somewhere less offensive, and I will only have soreness to remind me it is there. They said it looks like a sports injury, and the only thing I could think of was that time in fourth grade when I wiped out during single base at school. I could schedule a surgery with ortho, sit in the waiting room with all the silver haired folks who need hip replacements and the kids with sports injuries. Meh. I think it will have to get worse before I do that. This bum knee is the reason I do not have the fun in the snow that I used to. Skating, sledding, skiing, even snowshoeing, are all out because of it. It seems the Lord’s will that I winter somewhere tropical, wouldn’t you say?

Meanwhile I shall hobble about in the house, pottering with houseplants, cooking soup, and looking out at the birds at the feeder, watching the lazy flakes swirl down. Yes, that is what they are doing.

I find myself trying to explain to one of my children what I want them to bring up from the basement, feebly waving my hands around my head as I grasp for what you call it. “Words, Mom,” they prompt helpfully. “Use your words.”

I was trying to make up a meal schedule last evening, and found myself writing “soup” repeatedly. It’s appropriate, and that’s what we’re doing. Hearty hamburger soup. Toscana with kale. Chicken broth with vegetables. Ramen. I bet you didn’t see that coming, but hey, my children like Ramen. Who am I to quibble? (I am feeling satisfied that I thought of that word “quibble” without too much feeble hand waving around my head.)

We had a sunny day last week that melted the stuff on the roof, so that we had enormous icicles growing outside the windows. Rita called the most impressive one Big Jimmy and everybody got invested in watching how much he would grow. Two of the girls even dreamed that various neighbors came and broke off Big Jimmy before he reached full potential. Methinks we need broader horizons.

In an effort not to get too mush-brained, I paid for a writing course from Jonathan Rogers, called The Habit. (Author of The Wilderking Trilogy, highly recommended for kids and adults both. We got the audiobooks, and they are top-notch.) The idea is that you must make an every day habit of writing if you’re serious. I have been trying, I really have. One thing I have established: my fiction attempts are total rubbish. But I keep making a stab at the assignments, trying to string words together in fresh ways. The problem is that it has all been said before. Occasionally I get frozen with fear that I am subconsciously quoting another author whose work I admire, thinking I am making this up all by myself. What a fraud! Rogers uses samples from authors like Tolkien, Lewis, L.M. Montgomery, and Harper Lee to explain excellent writing. One is reminded constantly that one is very. small. potatoes. Especially in February.

I also signed up for a lot of studying in Sunday school this winter. We are doing a course called Search the Word from The Daily Grace Co. I like the discipline, but admit, I have to crack the whip over my mind repeatedly. There are ladies in the group who put me to shame with their level of study. In this season I have no excuse not to search the Word, but I do have endless interruptions, so I am taking it as the enrichment I need without dipping into any guilt when my summary misses a few points.

Gregory has volunteered to make omelettes for lunch. Rita is singing, “I’m leaving on a jet plane,” at her desk, and Addy is studying adjectives with much drama about boring school. How are you fine folks holding up?

Curated

So I have a google phone, and every day it suggests news articles for me, most of which I loftily ignore. I am endlessly amused though (not by google’s spying) by my own interests coming back to bite me with more ideas to pursue on topics of interest. I have repeatedly clicked, “not interested” on sports, celebrities, and c***d discussions for my own mental health. For some reason I get suggested articles on “Eleven Habits of Emotionally Healthy People”. I also get “Twenty People Who Didn’t See What Was Coming” or “Twelve Cake Decorating Ideas to Avoid” video compilations. I laugh uproariously and feel better for the therapy.

This past week there have been organization articles, ways to streamline your household and make your kitchen feel happier, less cluttered, etc. These are fascinating to me. Like this tip: turn your kettle lids upside down when the pot is in the cupboard so that you can stack the next kettle on top of it. Do tell! I think I learned that in my mother’s womb. Or the one where you lay a piece of pegboard in the bottom of a drawer, then stick short dowels into the holes so that you can put cookie cutters or apple slicers into the drawer and they won’t slide around. It’s kind of a neat idea, if you have a cookie cutter drawer. Mine go into a metal cookie tin in the pantry to wait for next Christmas.

I read the gardening articles. “Three Easy Ways to Keep Your Houseplants Happy,” or “How to Propagate Succulents”. Last week I found a fascinating article about soil, written by an Amish-man who lives not very far from here. I kept exclaiming to my children about how articulate his ideas are, how much sense they make, and how can he possibly be Amish? He has a blog and a podcast! They couldn’t quite get past the part where I was reading about soil. Again. They actually laughed at their funny mother. O vell.

I do click on “Underrated Destinations that Delight Visitors” and do armchair traveling. The problem with telling the Web about an amazingly undeveloped destination on the beach is that 100 million people might see it, and then if only a fraction of the people go there, it will no longer be undeveloped or amazing. Why do they do that, I wonder? I also check ticket prices to hot and sunny places. It’s a sort of joke with my January self. If things get too frozen, I can go to Phoenix for $112, like a tapping out button that I will never use. Then I saw that some friends of mine are actually in Phoenix right now, in a sun-drenched desert landscape full of blooming cacti and, did I mention, sunshine? So it can happen.

Then there are the recipes. We are past the week of “confused and full of cheese” and officially into the season of craving citrus and broth based soups. That doesn’t stop me from wanting to try all the sourdough coffee cakes that google suggests would bless me this month.

I should probably go now, check if I have the ingredients in my spice cupboard for that “How to Make Sure Your House Smells Great” potpourri.

Notes From an Untrendy Person

I seem to have been born with a bent to untrendiness. It’s somewhat about being clueless, and more about being stubbornly resistant to the things that are cool with the masses. But I am also forty now, which means I no longer spout meaningless opinions quite as readily as I used to, and hopefully am more open to the big idea.

However, I will part ways with caution and political correctness to spout some opinions. I have been getting one of those glossy magazines titled Flower for about a year and as I flip through it, looking at the showpieces that cannot possibly be actual homes as much as they are museums to designers, I see things that puzzle me. Every house seems to have these floral installations hanging from the chandelier. It confuses me. An amaryllis, upside down amidst some greenery and a few straggling vines. The glory of it is lost upon me. I have hung plenty of roses upside down to preserve their glory a little longer, but never straight from the florists as an installation. I puzzle, too, over brand-new mansions with antique farm implements polished on the walls beside electric fireplaces topped with scarred barn beam mantlepieces with preferably an animal skull adorning the room under a nature print of a dead rabbit beside a victorious fox. I find it all a bit alarming, like a city dweller has had an identity crisis and brought home Grandpa’s treasures instead of selling them at auction.

Then there are the houseplants. They are all good, and wonderful for the air of the home; it is simply fascinating to watch the trends from ficus to fern to fiddle leaf figs. If I had room, I would probably try them all. Except snake plant. I just can’t see it. My grandma always had them, and though she had a green thumb, her snake plant languished thinly with a few yellowing spears. In my Flower magazine I notice a lot of viney plants that straggle across everything from pianos to open shelving in kitchens, where you have to be careful not to disrupt it when you want to use the crockery. The thing is, the Amish ladies have been doing this for as long as I can remember, only they don’t have the open shelving. They use little hooks to hold up the vines on the wall, and I applaud their creativity. I used to say I dislike succulents because they are squishy, but wow! We have them on many of our windowsills for the winter and I really love them. I guess there is hope for a future snake plant.

On to coffee. I wouldn’t say it annoys me when people post pictures of fancy coffee on their Instagram stories. It doesn’t; they look wonderful and I want some too! It’s just the need to assure everyone that this happened! This coffee right here that is too beautiful to drink did, indeed, happen, and here is the proof that I have 5 extra dollars every day. Okay, sorry about that snark. I have a friend, a millennial who has insights into trends, who was laughing with me about this, and we decided to start a new thing: buying McDonald’s dollar coffee and posting pictures of it in all seriousness like it is the treat of the day. Honestly, I love their iced-French-vanilla-sugar-free. I took a picture of pumpkin spice that I brought home for my husband one day, but then I neglected to post it, so here’s the proof. Michelle, this is for you!

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(It wasn’t actually very good. Too sweet.)

Here’s another surprising thing from Flower: a super trendy jewel designer posted a picture of herself in a floral cotton dress with puffy sleeves. I would wear the dress myself, if I could get about a yard of extra fabric to fill in the neckline. On either side posed her adult daughters, one in calico and the other in a lavender gingham pinafore. My girls had almost the exact same pinafores when they were 1 and 3 years old. Isn’t it amazing? (If you wonder why I get this magazine… it was one of those $2 deals and I thought I was getting a gardening instructional. haha.)

I still can’t get into enneagrams. They make me feel dim-witted because I can’t remember what the letters are for. But that’s a personal problem. Last night I had a dream that was so vivid, I awoke from it feeling like I needed to make amends to the people who had been hurt by my actions. It took a few minutes of wakefulness to realize that I had not even done that awful thing that I was repenting of in the middle of the night. What letter is a dim-witted, apologetic person?

Here’s all I really am saying: go right ahead and buy that plant to beautify your house. Don’t mind me and I won’t mind you. Also, I do like some things. Wanna hear about them?

I do love emojis. I thought of a shruggy one right at the end of the last paragraph.

When it comes to household trends, it’s kind of a personality thing: I like cozy, easily maintained spaces. I tend to look for warm colors because white would have to be washed for ever more. I like things that work double duty, like a pretty hat box that doubles as storage for the card games. There is very little in our home that is strictly ornamental.  I readily admit that I am trendy-decorating challenged, and I feel humbled by the fact that there are pieces that have been hanging on our walls for 15 years. I do believe in rearranging the furniture. It truly sparks joy for me, and my girls light right up when I suggest that we figure out a new way to place the living room furnishings. The men in the house? Not so much. “But we just carried that heavy old thing downstairs last year!” I play this game with them every year when I deep-clean the places and shampoo the rugs and furniture. It’s really fun to make our small space work for us the best it can. That just naturally involves dragging things around.

On the clothing scene, I love polka dots. This was evident today when I wore my navy skirt with white polka dots, and my daughters ended up with teal/white dots, pink/white dots, and grey/white dots. Our bench at church was a merrily uncoordinated sight! There is another trend that I would like to encourage you to try if you are on the fence about it. I bought it at Wally the weekend my husband and I were going camping to celebrate our anniversary. In his words, “That is one impressive sweater!” meaning those below-the-knee chunky sweaters. My idea was that it would be great for running to the bath house in the middle of the night, etc. etc. I didn’t expect it to be so cozy. It’s literally like wearing a blanket, but much more acceptable in public than one of those snuggies from a few years ago.

I have a few pictures for you to prove that it really did happen: we did go camping all by ourselves, in a tent, for the first time in years. It was wonderful.

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We ate out. Every meal we ate out there. We stopped at Aldis on our way and bought easy stuff but yum!IMG_20191012_175123309

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The sweater adorns the folding sofa chair up there. It kept catching on the picnic table benches when I was cooking, but otherwise I wore it day and night.

And one more picture (below) taken on our actual anniversary. I get so tickled by the contrasts in this picture. My husband can pull off the millennial look very well, but we have agreed on no skinny jeans, ever. He doesn’t mind my conservative safeness, either, (no way Converse) so… match made in heaven.

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I know you want to know if I have bought a fanny pack yet. Nope. I still have one from the 90’s.

 

P. S. Small appeal here: please comment anything. I have been playing safe and not writing for various reasons. The Lord (ok, maybe it was people) prompted me to stop being afraid, so I plunged right off the cliff with a bunch of tongue-in-cheek to see if anyone is still out there.

 

Tuesday in the Life, Installment 3

I hope I meet Asaph in heaven so I can tell him how much I loved his songs here on Earth. I don’t know… maybe Asaph was more than one person, but the chapters in the Psalms from 73 to 83 are some of my favorites. Reading through them with their sweeping big picture arrangements contrasting human frailties and divine kindness  never fails to inspire me to deeper trust. Consider this passage from Psalm 74: 16, 17.

Yours is the day, yours also the night;

you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.

 You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth;

you have made summer and winter.

I sometimes say things like, “Aghhh. I want winter to be over NOW! I want tulips!” Or maybe it sounds more like, “I am tired of all my clothes, and I want to go to the tropics!” Sometimes the pettiness comes out in a mutter under my breath about how every one is getting on my nerves and why are there so many boots in this life? 

When I read through these Psalms, I hear Asaph reminding his people again and again that everything is under control. There is a bigger purpose here than just what I want. I do want spring, unabashedly. I pine for it. But I can also wait patiently because it will be worth the waiting!

My sister-in-law Becca passed on a pearl of wisdom a few years ago. “If you don’t like something or if it just bugs you all the time, do something about it! Don’t just talk about it.” This is very good advice for the things that I can actually do something about, like training the children to line up the boots or setting aside some household funds to freshen up the house.

It’s that time of the year when I need to have a zero tolerance policy for grousing and yet have the courage to change the things I can. I may have said the line about being tired of my clothes this morning. My husband looked a bit blank, “Why?” So then I moved on to “I think I am going to buy a bunch of houseplants,” to which he replied, “Why not?” His reasonableness made me remember why not. I kill houseplants regularly. Also they tip over when we walk past them. I do have better success with tiny succulents but alas, this winter I had them on the sills of my pottery shed windows and they got nip-dead on that weekend of bitter below zero temps. A few also got drown-dead.

I don’t know what spying algorithms are at work, but Instagram regularly gives me ads for buying plants online, so I went on the Amazon this morning and used all my points on a variety pack of 20 teensy plants to replace the ones that froze. I also bought paperwhite bulbs to force in time for Easter blooms. I felt much better then. On my kitchen windowsill I do have some genuine geranium blooms that had no one to admire them in my mom’s basement while she is in Florida, so I clipped them and brought them home.

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Yet another brilliant project I am working on is a small pinwheel quilt kit I saw on the clearance rack at Joann’s. By the time I was informed at the register that I couldn’t use my coupon on clearance items, my heart was too invested to give it up, so I spent way too much for small pieces of coordinating fabric. I really do enjoy the therapy of brilliant calicos, although it is slow going.

On Mondays we catch up on laundry and I do school assignments in the notebooks for the week. Ideally that makes Tuesday the day for projects. I can easily dictate spelling words while I am sewing.

I recently found a vintage typewriter at a thrift store and debated for a long time about whether it would be worth the storage space required. Considering how much fun my girls have playing pretend with an old computer keyboard, I decided to bring it home. The ribbon was dried out, but they used it anyway while we waited for a replacement online. Today it came in the mail. The child done first with her school assignments (Olivia, of course)  got to be first with the typewriter. It was a great boot in the rear for the lagging ones when they saw how bright and fresh the words leaped onto the paper.

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They have been writing letters, pounding out stories, making little books, etc. etc. There are no cords, no batteries, and no backspace key! Addy is a fearless writer, with little regard for unnecessary details like spelling or chronological order. I find her scraps of stories around the house and enjoy them vastly. Here is a translation for you.

“My Family  Addy Rita Livy Greg Alex Papa Mama

Oh no. The boys are on the roof. Sally is in

side. Alex is sick so my mama went to the store

to get ginger ale. And that is the end of my story.”

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(The boys were not on the roof.) This simple machine has been well worth $20 already, just for the tricky way it has sparked joy in composing writing.

After lunch we had quiet time, all except the clacking of the typing keys. It’s not even half as annoying as the sounds of a computer game.

I spent a few hours in the pottery barn, glazing pieces that came out of the first firing yesterday. There are a lot of experiments in this kiln, including the teapots. I am waiting for some glazes I ordered before I can finish the load, but it was nice to be deliberate. Most of my mistakes/seconds happen in the glazing process. I am currently trying to wrap my head around the chemistry of glaze components as explained by a master. When I think back to learning the periodic table in school, my head is pretty much a blank. I must have memorized them long enough to pass the test, then gently released all that excess data to make space for more pressing items. It’s not like I have to learn about all the elements now, but I do need to understand the ones that make successful glazes unless I want to be stuck with only using commercially available ones. I muddle through and take notes but I honestly don’t know whether I have it in me.

At suppertime I came inside and cooked up a huge pot of creamy potato soup. My family cheers for soup, and I love cooking it. Tonight’s version included sweet onion, garlic, carrots, potatoes, whole kernel corn, lots of parsley, ground turkey, and some cheddar. It was broth-based with a few cups of milk for creaminess and I used instant potatoes to thicken it just a bit. Served with saltines and pear butter, I am glad I can report a meal that was nourishing at the end of this Tuesday.

Cheers!

 

 

 

a Slightly Imperfect Day in the Life…

The day started with my husband’s alarm, due to his having an early shift. When we do get up at the same time, I enjoy the novelty of fixing the bed right away. 😀  I went through my coffee bean grinding ritual and this morning it was still early enough that the noise didn’t wake the girls. A quick sweep through the fridge and I had his lunch packed. The children wandered out of bedrooms, one by one. While they ate breakfast, I read them the conclusion of our most recent read-aloud, Sophie’s Tomby Dick King-Smith. It is a short story about a 6 year-old aspiring lady farmer, but it is written so masterfully that the older children and I enjoyed it just as much as Addy did. (Even though Sophie probably needed a spanking.)

After the dishes were cleared, the girls and I did a Bible lesson at the table, all together. I have been meaning to do this all year, using Route 66: A Trip Through the 66 Books of the Bible.  Somehow we only just got started. This is a course for middle schoolers with simpler text and an overview of who wrote the books of the Bible, key passages in each book, etc. Gregory will be working through Route 66: Travel Through the Bible, a course I myself did a number of years ago. I ordered it for him when I realized that the girls’ course is a little too simple for an 8th grader. The concepts in this study guide are not difficult or even especially theological, with the focus being more on the historical aspects of the books of the Bible.

When we got that cleared away, it was already 9:30 and high time to hit the arithmetic lessons. I dictated spelling words, found fact sheets, cleaned up the schoolroom floor, took a few minutes out to cast some burdens on Jesus, documented some pottery glaze tests, showed Olivia how to make a sentence outline, compounded interest with Gregory, and then it was lunch time.

If you ever want to know what homeschoolers eat… well, today was an inglorious one with fried bologna sandwiches for lunch. Fast, easy, cheap. Hmm. Sounds about right.

After dishes clean-up, I set the little girls loose to go play in the glorious 55 degree sunshine. They were not done with their assignments, but I figured they would be back inside in plenty of time to do them. Meanwhile Olivia and I worked in three loads of laundry and I packaged some pottery orders. Then there was a run to the post office and the bank. We live in rural hick-town, but we only have a mile to those two establishments, which is a great blessing. Last year a local chocolatier built a factory/warehouse just 1/4 mile from our place and I very nearly swung in today to check if they have any seconds or an outlet store in the building. Then I thought that might seem a little desperate, what with no signs or anything indicating a store. I did go to Fisher’s, our favorite local bulk food store, where I bought milk and lunchmeat because we nearly finished the bologna today. Haha. I was pleasantly surprised to find a book-selling gentleman set up in their empty greenhouse. A quick scan of his shelves revealed one of David McCullough’s books, 1776He is probably our favorite history writer, so of course, I needed to give it a home.

The little girls were still out playing Heidi with the goats, wearing only short sleeved shirts and their rubber boots, it was that warm. Oh well, school assignments would wait a little longer.

The day was creeping along, clouds covering the sun, making it urgent for me to get my daily constitutional. I usually walk 2 miles or 30 minutes, whichever comes first. I like to use the time to listen to audiobooks. Today I was in chapter 2 of Ravi Zacharias’  The Grand Weaver. I kept pausing, dictating notes to Google Keep, trying to absorb the soul-stirring truths. I am sure I looked like a weird woman who is nutso about her phone. But seriously, this is a book for every person who has ever grappled with the problem of pain and injustice and why God doesn’t just rescue all His children quickly.

I came home to chop celery and cook chicken noodle for supper. This morning Addy had begged to mix up some brownies “before the mix gets old and yucky” so that was dessert. The little girls were still out chasing ducks when supper was ready. The rest of us ate without them and I am afraid I must admit that we sat in the living room and just read quietly while we ate. Gabriel is working a double shift, so we do these odd things to compensate.

When the goat girls finally showed up, it was getting dark. I ushered them straight to the shower for hair washes and all. They were starved, so there was no quibbling about any of the food. That was when I trotted out their schoolwork that wasn’t finished. Addy’s was just a cursive practice page, but Rita needed to do her Language lesson.

At last all was wrapped up for the day and it was time for bedtime story. I started a new book tonight, The Bushbaby, an out-of-print book I picked up at a library sale. It started out promisingly enough, with the girls begging for more every time I got to the end of a chapter. I have honed the skill of rapid editing if I happen to run up against objectionable content in books I haven’t read before. Sometimes they ask me what I skipped, but if I am smooth enough, they don’t even notice. Only once have I been so awfully wrong about a children’s storybook that I chucked it into the trash before we finished it. We don’t use a reading curriculum in school, so that’s why all the books. It seems to be working out okay.

I thought all was wrapped up for the day, so I took my shower. When I got out, the two littles had set up a restaurant in the kitchen with the only thing on the menu being oranges, because that was all they were allowed to have for a bedtime snack.

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There was sticky juice on the counter, the floor, the table, themselves. I swiped a few swipes with a washcloth and sent them to bed. Tomorrow we’ll work on spelling.

The Pig That Forgot it Was Sunday

I left church early that day with a headache. I planned on a nap as soon as I had fed the children leftovers for lunch.  As we walked in the door, a note fluttered to the floor.

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Well, that was that. Maybe it was impaired thinking due to the ache in my head, but I didn’t change out of my church attire or require Gregory to change. Alex and Gabe weren’t home, so we did what they would have done. After all, Petunia has channelled her Guinea hog ancestors before and gone on long ambles through the countryside. Always she amiably followed a bucket of corn back to her pen, no problem. Gregory fetched a scoop of cracked corn from the barn and reported that Petunia had gotten out through the wooden gate, tipped over the barrel, and eaten about half of the corn. This should have been a warning: Petunia was not even remotely hungry.

We drove down the road, looking in all the back yards. Finally at the bottom of the hill we saw a cluster of neighbors in the woods. Sure enough, they were trying to entice a portly black pig into their barnyard with some grain. Petunia appeared to be enjoying the attention, leisurely chewing and swinging her head around from person to person. Gregory waved his scoop of grain under her nose and she began to follow him through the briars at the edge of the woods. When he got to the road, she veered and scuttled back into the woods, Gregory hard on her heels, rattling his corn scoop and trying to persuade her back out to civilization. The neighbors watched, amused, and offered to fetch a rope. I thought maybe a leash would work better and drove home quickly to fetch one, as well as to pick up Rita, our best animal catcher. She had boots on, but I still didn’t think about changing out of my slip-ins from church. Back I went in my long navy blue dress, not intending to be involved in any way except to encourage the young fry.

Greg is the most defeatist of all the children when it comes to animal husbandry, and this was no exception: This will never work. She isn’t hungry. There is no way we will ever get her to follow me all the way home. Can’t we just shoot her?

At this point I should have listened to him. The corn was all in a little pile beside the road where Petunia obliged us by trying to eat a bit, but as soon as the leash got close to her head, she scooted for the briars. Unlike us, she didn’t give a patooie about the prickles and poison ivy. I looked down at my brown flex-soles, sighed, and resigned myself to a long , arduous chase. Only you don’t chase pigs. They will not be herded and any gap in a string of people trying to do so is the first place they will spy. As portly as the average adult pig is, they are amazingly agile. “Just stay with her, keep her in your sight!” I hollered to Greg. The undergrowth was so thick I couldn’t see either of them, but I heard him reply, “She’s in their pasture!”

These neighbors have a horse pasture with one strand of shocking wire at waist height. It had no meaning to Petunia, but at least she was in an open area where we could see her. Gregory and Rita joined her to try to persuade her toward the open barn doors near the horse corral. Meanwhile the horses went nuts, galloping round and round, snorting in agitation at their porcine visitor, who gave every evidence of thick-headed enjoyment of the situation. I ran down their lane, hoping to direct her between a swamp and the house. Petunia took one suspicious look at the dark barn doorway and slithered neatly between all the people into hog heaven, the gooshiest, pooey-est barnyard in the vicinity. She was not interested in giving up her Sunday afternoon field trip, keeping right on course, due west toward a much deeper woods where I had no hope of ever finding her again.

I looked at that barnyard and stepped in on a hummock of grass, figuring if I stayed on the more stable looking tufts, I could stay reasonably clean. The second hummock betrayed me and I lost my shoe. It was ridiculous anyway. Why not be ridiculous barefooted in ankle deep poo? I tossed my shoes and the girls tossed their boots and Gregory tossed his sneakers. We were getting just a little bit miffed, but we had learned a few things from Petunia, and we acted like we also were on an unconcerned, although thinly-veiled-anxiety-ridden stroll westward. She changed course and came back toward the barn.

“There’s pellets in that barrel inside the barn doors,” the lady of the house bellowed down the hill. I squelched into the dim interior, moved the whiskey bottle off the top of the barrel and opened it. Down at the bottom was a small layer of pellets for horses, sure enough. It was such a vast barrel and I am a short woman. I barely managed to keep one foot on the ground as I dived down to scoop up the food. As I attempted to entice my pig into the barn again with the scoop of pellets, she took a sniff, disdainfully turned up her snout, and trotted up toward their house. Incongruously, just then we were joined by a spotted fawn frisking around. We only lacked a clown on an elephant to make the circus complete.

There was a small stand of trees and bushes up there where Petunia decided to go for a break from pesky humans. “Hey,” Gregory said, “I think we could pen her in there if we had a portable fence.” I was considering driving home for ours when the elderly neighbor suggested using the chain link fence that was precariously draped around a small garden. He cut the twines that held it upright against some aged posts and we proceeded to drag it out of the weeds. Chain link fence is much heavier than one might expect and I was afraid he would drop with a heart attack. The girls kept vigil close to Petunia while Gregory and I helped to haul the fence up the hill.

The bushes were planted next to an antique tractor, a snow plow, some assorted children’s swing set parts, etc. etc. We managed to get the fence upright and tightly joined together at the seams with red baler twine. Where there was a gap I set a folding table that was leaning against the tractor wheel, apparently there for lack of storage in the house. Petunia now had shade, grass to nibble when she felt like it was time for a little something, and a playground. I doubted it would keep her in for long, but maybe it would work until Alex got home. The back up plan was to take the trailer down and attempt to load her onto it, but there was no way my crew of children and I were going to try it on our own. We were hungry, muddy, and frankly, we were making sausage in our minds. We promised the neighbor some if we ever butcher the troublemaker.

I kept apologizing for infringing on their Sunday afternoon relaxation and they assured us that they had nothing better to do, it was no problem, etc. etc.

Retrieving all our poo-caked footwear, we went home and cleaned up. I made lunch, and when I had time to think about it, the headache had not improved with so much fresh air and exercise. I had that nap and was brought back to earth by excited shouts at the next door neighbors a few hours later. “Your pig is in our backyard!” they called.

I looked where they were pointing. There was Petunia, belly swaying gracefully, heading due east toward her pen. Maybe she missed the security, or maybe she missed her husband, but she was coming home. Gregory opened the gate and she trotted straight to her wallow, easing into it with the exact familiarity of any weary human coming home to the recliner at night.

I drove down the road to her makeshift chainlink pen at the other neighbor’s house. There was the spot where she had easily nosed  up a hole big enough to squeeze under. The only fence a pig respects is shocking wire, so I wasn’t surprised, but my neighbor was. We visited for a while, making small talk. I was glad, because I had never connected with these folks except to wave as I walked past. Before I left, the lady of the house dug out a volunteer Rose of Sharon bush for me. I have never especially liked those bushes, but I planted it in a corner where it should do well and serve to remind me of surprising friendships in unlikely circumstances.

But I still want sausage.

Want to see the culprit?

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