Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Cubby the Stoic

At about 2:30 this afternoon, Cubby started saying he didn't feel good, that his stomach hurt.

Oh, great. This sounds like the return of the vomit to me.

So I sat him in front of The Sword in the Stone with a big bowl and instructed him to puke in that should the urge strike.

He sat there for about an hour, whimpering occasionally, but not using the bowl.

Then the mechanic called to let us know that A.'s car was ready to be picked up, so I paused the movie and prepared to load all three children into the minivan to bring A. to the mechanic. I told Cubby to bring his bowl with him, just in case. As I was helping Charlie find his boots, I heard A. say, "Good work, Cubby. Just get it all in the bowl," and turned around to see Cubby throwing up very quietly and calmly into the bowl.

He stood there for a minute until he was all done, still not making a sound. I took him into the bathroom to rinse out his mouth and dump the contents of the bowl, and then he put his boots on, grabbed the bowl, and got in the car.

Still no crying, no hysteria, nothing.

On our way to the mechanic, that "Brave" song came on, the one with the refrain of, "I wanna see you be brave." Cubby piped up with this from the backseat, "This is my lucky day, to hear my favorite song when I'm so sick, so I can be brave."

Right, Cubby. Way to keep calm and carry on, little buckaroo. You're a brave one, for sure.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

For Mary's Mother

Sometimes I wonder why I've kept on posting the same random, frivolous drivel here day after week after month after year after year after year . . . Almost nine years now I've been writing inconsequential stories about my small life and sending them out into the ether for no reason whatsoever.

Except they are not inconsequential. Because people read them. And to some people, they become quite important indeed.

One of those people was Mary's mother. Mary is a friend of the MiL's from way back. Mary's mother lived in an assisted living facility, and Mary visited her mother almost every day. At some point, Mary began printing out and reading my blog to her mother. And those stories that I put very little thought into became a part of both of their lives.

Mary's mother--I never met the lady and in fact don't even know her name--particularly loved the stories about Cubby, Charlie, and Jack. She followed along with all their births. She laughed at their antics and their proclamations. She watched them grow up, even though they never met in person.

Mary's mother died yesterday. Mary was with her at the end, and when the MiL sent me the news about her mother's death, Mary specifically wrote to me to let me know that her mother asked about "the little boys" until the end, making up stories about them based on the expressions she saw in the photos I posted.

This made me tear up. And it reminded me that those little boys are precious in so many ways, to so many people.

So to Mary, I extend my deepest sympathies. And for her mother, I offer one last photo of "her boys," whom she never met:


Rest in peace, Mary's mom. With love from the Family Blackrock.

Monday, December 28, 2015

My Birthday Gift From the Universe


I went to a bar last night to celebrate my birthday.

To appreciate how out of character this is for me, you should know that the last time I went to a bar was probably seven or eight years ago. But it was kind of a miserable day yesterday, what with the pouring rain and the (STILL, FOREVER) snotty children and I really, really wanted to get out of the house. The options around here are pretty limited, so the bar it is. I e-mailed a couple of friends and asked if they could meet me at the bar in the village around 4:30 for a drink.

It was very last minute, and both of these friends have their own three kids each, so getting all three of us there would have been something of a miracle. Turned out one couldn't make it at all and the other couldn't get there until about 7 p.m.

So I put all three kids to bed a little early and left at 7 p.m. I got home at 9 p.m. and the first thing A. told me was that shortly after I left, Charlie vomited all over his bed, and himself.

We had spaghetti for dinner. It was an ugly scene.

Charlie has never thrown up before, and was understandably upset. Hysterical might actually be a better word. But A. and Cubby (who is actually very solicitous and helpful in situations like these) got him and his bed cleaned up and got him back to sleep relatively quickly.

There were no further wake-ups, although he did apparently throw up again a little. I discovered this when I went in this morning to gather up the laundry and found another little puddle on his pillow.

He had to have a bath this morning and I had to scrape a sour-smelling mixture of spaghetti and carrots off his pillow and sheets, but! BUT!

I was not here for the hysteria and vomit-covered three-year-old at 7:15 last night. I could feel guilty about this, but . . . I don't. Instead, I feel relieved and grateful that my friend's schedule meant I was at a bar when the excitement started and I didn't have to deal with the hysteria and second-hand spaghetti all over the bed.

Call it luck. Call it fate. Call it a divine plan. Call it whatever you want, but happy birthday to me.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Cocktail Party in a Box

Today is my birthday.

I'll wait while you type out the congratulatory comments. Done? Okay.

I didn't ask for any particular gift, so my mother and the MiL just got me what they thought I might like.

The MiL ordered five pounds of snacks from nuts.com: a pound of pistachios, a pound of cashews, a pound of pecans, a pound of dried apricots, and a pound of something called chocolate coconut haystacks.

After ten years of living with me, she definitely knows what I like.

My mother, in a pleasing and totally unplanned complement, sent me a box of top-shelf liquor. Because although she hasn't lived with me in way more than ten years, she knows my love of a good cocktail. So I am now the owner of three bottles of liquor I would never buy myself: a bottle of Tanqueray gin, a very classy-looking bottle of brandy, and a bottle of blood-orange liqueur.

Yes, blood-orange liqueur. I know! Fancy! I can't tell you how excited I was when I saw that. I'm going to have the most exotic Sidecar ever.

So between the snacks and the liquor, I was basically sent an entire cocktail party. Except I'm not having a party, which means it's ALL FOR ME. Well, and A. I'll let him have a drink, too.

Congratulations to my mom and the MiL, who pretty much hit the ball out of the park with this year's birthday presents. And happy birthday to me.


Cheers!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Madness In Photos



The joyful tearing of paper is the soundtrack of Christmas Day.


The only photo I got of everyone, in which half of the family look as if they've been caught doing something illegal.


The future Band of Brothers: Cubby on guitar, Charlie on drums, Jack on tambourine.


Cubby practicing his rock star face, and Jack displaying his rock star flourish.

All that's left now is to play with all the gifts. (And read them, because the most popular gift in our families for our children is books, mostly non-fiction about animals, and they received a total of fifteen new books yesterday. We have a lot of reading to do.)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

This Is Gonna Be Awesome


The tree is locked and (over) loaded . . .


Within those packages are a guitar for Cubby, a drum for Charlie, and a whole percussion band-in-a-box for Jack, courtesy of my parents. I actually requested these items on behalf of my children. The cacophony--I mean, the sweet music--should be really impressive tomorrow morning.

The stockings are filled . . .

And I don't have a picture, because my camera needs batteries*, but they're filled with a truly festive collection of office supplies. What, Santa doesn't bring your kids tape and pencils? That's too bad.

T minus 10 hours before the wrapping paper explosion. I can't wait.

* I have some, I just didn't put them in the camera yet. I will, though. Don't you worry. There will be sufficient blurry photos to document the mayhem in the morning.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Excitement Runs High

One of the things I most enjoy about having three small boys is telling people that I have three small boys. The reactions are always amusing. The less tactful just say, "I'm sorry." (This is kind of offensive, by the way, and you should never say this, even as a joke.)

The more diplomatic say something cheery like, "Wow, you're a busy lady!" The other day, someone replied, "It must be exciting at your house."

Well, yes, I suppose it is. Also, it is very loud.


Also also, there are a lot of improvised weapons.  Like that missile launcher behind Cubby there that is taking aim at the stuffed puppy suspended from the rocking horse.


No puppies were harmed, because Jack managed to liberate Puppy before the missile could be launched.

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Gift for Words

Cubby slept unusually late this morning. He doesn't have school this week, so there was no reason to disturb him. When I finally went in to check on him about 8:45 a.m., he opened his eyes, but made no move to get out of bed. A few minutes after that, I went back upstairs to put Jack down for a nap and found that Cubby still hadn't moved from his bed. So I asked him if he was planning on getting up and dressed anytime soon.

"I can't," he said, his voice muffled by his down comforter. "I'm suctioned to my bed."

Son, I know exactly what you mean.

When You're Up, You're Up and When You're Down, You're Down

Charlie's down. With the latest craze in colds, that is. Probably the same one that I had and that Jack had, which means it's a bad one. I thought we had gotten it from him and Cubby, but maybe not. Who can tell? It's a big, snotty cycle of illness.

As my children would say, "Christmas and illness rhyme!"

Well, not exactly, but close enough that I bet I could compose a very amusing ditty on the subject. As soon as I'm not swiping snot off an upper lip for the millionth time or making yet another cup of tea with honey that will go untouched.

It's kind of like Christmas sickness roulette. Who will be sick on the big day? Who will be healthy? Who will be mostly well but still drippy? Lay your bets now! The winner gets . . . well, nothing, I suppose.

I don't know where I'm going with this. Par for the course these days. Happy Holidays! WHEEE!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

All the Elements for Fun

I had to cancel Jack's admittedly lame birthday celebration with other children yesterday due to the fact that the birthday boy is currently dripping grossness from his nose, coughing like a three-pack-a-day smoker, and generally in no shape for revelry.

But that doesn't mean we didn't celebrate! Of course not!

We had decorations!


I am not on Pinterest. You are shocked by this, I know.


What kind of mean person hangs the balloons out of the guest of honor's reach? 


Now you see why I'm not on Pinterest? Yup.

We had cake!


No, there is no frosting. I made whipped cream for it instead. (That's the same candle I used for both Cubby's and Charlie's first birthdays. Even Jack's cake decorations are hand-me-downs.)


You might think this is the face of a child who is underwhelmed by his frosting-less cake. You would be right.


This, however, is the face of a child who is digging the whipped-cream-covered beater.


Maybe next year I'll skip the cake and just give him a beater.

We had a seriously exhausted and snotty baby who was ready for bed at 6 p.m.


Party on, Wayne. Some other time.

We'll make up for it next year. Maybe.

Friday, December 18, 2015

One



Happy first birthday to the incredible Jack. Long may you prosper.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Devoutly Grateful for School Today

Oh, hey. I feel like shit today. Yesterday, too. The expected holiday pestilence has landed on me and Jack this time, and the days have been a challenge to get through.

It's pissing down cold rain outside and my house is totally filthy and not at all presentable for the pseudo-birthday party I'm supposed to be hosting tomorrow for nine small children and two other adults.

But. And this is the big, happy, deeply grateful "but".

Cubby and Charlie are at school. And Jack is asleep. So I can sit by the woodstove in peace, blowing my nose and ignoring the clearly visible dust on every surface.

Today more than most days, I definitely believe in the value of education.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Lighting of the Tree: A Comedy in Two Acts

We got our Christmas tree on Sunday at the woodchuck tree farm. And then I had to put the lights on.

Putting the lights on is by far the worst part about the tree. Well, taking them off is probably the worst part, but in any case, the lights suck.

Nonetheless, there can be no Christmas tree without lights. So during Jack's morning nap, I began.

Charlie was in there with me, contributing to the efficiency of the whole project by getting under my feet and tripping me up as I wound my way around the tree.

I plugged each strand in before I put it on the tree to make sure it worked. All went well with the top of the tree, but then two strands in, I remembered that we have two strands with smaller bulbs and two strands with bigger bulbs. And I had put the two with the smaller bulbs at the top of the tree. It would have been better to alternate the sizes, so it wasn't tiny bulbs on top and bigger bulbs on bottom, but too late for that. Onward.

After about fifteen prickly, sticky minutes, I had four strands of lights on the tree. I ended on the side opposite the electric outlet, so I had to pull the power strip and its cord across the front of the tree to plug the lights in, but eh. Good enough.

"Okay, Charlie!" I said. "I'm done! Let's turn it on and see how they look!"

So I turned them on for the big finish and . . . one of the strands was only half working. Actually, it was about a third working. The bulbs on either end of it were working, but a section in the middle wasn't. And of course--OF COURSE--that section was smack in the middle front of the tree.

DAMMIT.

I got out some extra bulbs and tried replacing some of the malfunctioning ones. The bottom half of the strand started inexplicably blinking, but the unlit ones stayed unlit.

"I don't like the blinking ones, Mommy," said Charlie.

Me neither, Charlie. Migraine-inducing, for sure.

So I pulled the whole strand off, thinking I would replace it with a random strand of all-white lights we had in the box. Except that the all-white strand only had a plug to plug in on one side; it didn't have the receiver plug thing on the other to hook it with the rest of the lights. Ooookay. 

So then I thought I could just plug it in by itself in the power strip and kind of zig-zag it across the front of the tree to fill in some of the empty spots and blend in with the multi-colored lights.

This all sounds much more calm and reasonable than I was feeling at the time, by the way. My internal monologue was much more profane and stressed out. Especially when I got halfway through putting the white strand on the tree and it suddenly stopped working.

FINE. FINE, LIGHTS. YOU WIN.

I pulled off the white ones, pulled the already-draped strands of multi-colored lights around until they mostly covered the tree, and gave up.

But I was not entirely defeated yet! No!

At around 4 p.m., it was pretty dark so I told Charlie we could turn the Christmas tree lights on. Jack was with us, so he came into the parlor too. I turned them on and then had the brilliant idea of using the partially-working strand to fill in a little, making sure that the non-working lights were in the back by the wall. 

So I started re-stringing lights, this time with both Charlie and Jack crawling around my feet.

The whole strand stopped working. I replaced a random bulb and it was back to partially working. I kept on stringing it around and it miraculously ALL STARTED WORKING.

Perhaps our lights are possessed? I do not know. But they're on the tree. And when Cubby came home and saw the lit-up tree, he got all open-mouthed with wonder and said in a hushed voice, "Oh Mama. It's beautiful."


Yeah, it is. Wonky lights and all.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Lalalala

Are your voices limbered up and ready for another rendition of "The Woodchuck Man Can" in honor of A.'s 35th birthday today?  Click for versions one, two, three, and four.

On with the singing!

Who can shoot a big buck way out in the woods?
Then make it into sausage when I said I never would?

The woodchuck man
The woodchuck man can
The woodchuck man can
'Cause he uses what he has and makes it work for him.

Who can build a lean-to for winter camping fun?
Who can coach a little boy in his very first fun run?

The woodchuck man
The woodchuck man can
The woodchuck man can
'Cause he uses what he has and makes it work for him.

Who can take two small boys camping overnight?
Who can shoot a mean raccoon after a damaging dog fight?

The woodchuck man
The woodchuck man can
The woodchuck man can
'Cause he uses what he has and makes it work for him.

Happy birthday to A., the best Daddy Woodchuck that three small Woodchucks-in-Training could hope for.

Monday, December 14, 2015

BIG Mistake

The past six years or so of erratic sleep schedules have taught me one important thing: I should never voluntarily get up before 5 a.m.*

Perhaps this sounds like an obvious thing to you. Perhaps you do not have as many small children as I do.

See, what happens is, the current baby will awaken me at something like 4 a.m., right? So I go in to nurse him, and I get back to my bed at 4:15 a.m. But then I'm pretty awake, because that's close to my wake-up time, and my brain starts running, thinking about the things I have to do and how long until the older kids are awake and if I need to shower before they get up and on and on and on . . . and then it's 4:45 a.m.

At a time like that, I think, "Well, hell. I should just get up and get going. At least I'll have some time before other kids get up."

NO. WARNINGWARNINGWARNING. DO NOT GET UP.

This is what I tell myself. Even if I can't get back to sleep, I should not physically haul myself out of bed. It inevitably results in exhaustion by about 5:30 a.m. Staying in bed, if not actually sleeping, until at least 5 a.m. is the right thing to do.

A. got up at 4:30 this morning to go check his traps before work. The warning bells in my head rang and I prepared to stay in bed, but then I was hearing this faint mechanical noise from the cellar and I started worrying it was the water pump not shutting off (which can happen if something like a toilet is continuously running water and that can burn the water pump right up if it continues running too long), so I got up to check. And stayed up.

It's 5:52 a.m. Know how I feel right now?

Yup. Exhausted. Never fails.

* The only exception to this is if I've had a fully uninterrupted night of sleep and have actually slept straight through from 9 p.m. until 4:30 a.m. or something. But since this happens literally never lately, the rule always applies.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Halls: Decked

Cubby and Charlie helped me decorate for Christmas yesterday.


And by "helped," I mean they grabbed everything they could as soon as it was out of the boxes and ran around shrieking with it. At least they were enthusiastic.

We went with a minimalist theme this year. You can translate that to: "I was too lazy to bring down all the boxes at once, so we just put out what I could haul down the stairs in two trips."


Can you tell I'm wearing this weird headband with some kind of random fake gold plant on it that I suppose was meant to be mistletoe? Maybe? Nobody gave me a kiss, anyway. Probably for the best, since I'm currently riddled with cold germs. Mucous season continues unabated.

Jack helped by sleeping.


He did wear some festive pajamas that night to get in the spirit, though.

This weekend, we'll get the tree. I was going to have a tabletop tree, just to foil the adorable wrecking ball in those polar bear p.j.'s, but then Cubby came home and announced he had told all his friends at school we weren't having a Christmas tree. I protested that we were, too, it was just going to be a small one on the table. "Yeah," said Cubby, "And if it's not a big tree it's a FAKE TREE."

All right, then. Big tree it is. (In the parlor, so I can shut the French doors to keep out the crawling destroyer.) 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Practically a Day at the Spa

The school Cubby attends is very (very) small and has no provided lunches. This means that I literally have to pack him a lunch every school day if I want him to eat.

I think eating is a good thing. I don't mind packing the lunches.

Lunch packing seems to be this big topic of conversation and complaints online. I believe the people who hate it are just overthinking it. Repetition is key. In the three months since Cubby has started school, his lunch every day (with maybe four or five exceptions for exciting things like leftover pasta) has consisted of a sandwich* and some kind of fruit. Then he needs two snacks, which are almost always cut-up cheese, some kind of nuts, or, if he's really lucky, cold baked beans or yogurt**. Add milk, and he's done.

So, my almost-unvaried formula is sandwich+fruit+cheese+nuts+milk=done. And no, I make no cute shapes or attractive designs with his food. I just don't have it in me.

I pack A.'s lunch, too. He always gets leftovers, which is even easier. No cute shapes for him, either.

That said, Cubby doesn't have school on Fridays and A. has an office holiday party at a restaurant for lunch today, so I don't have to pack any lunches. It makes my morning feel suddenly free and unfettered.

Ha ha.

* Probably the most retro sandwich eater ever, this kid: PB&J, ham, salami, fish salad--like tuna salad, but made with any fish we have left over because that child LOOOOVES fish of any kind--even bologna or liverwurst when the MiL buys them. Though I must admit to faint disgust at peeling bologna and liverwurst off the stack of pressed meat and slapping it on bread. At least it's not Wonderbread.

** Someday Cubby will learn what store-bought flavored yogurt tastes like, and the sugar rush may ruin him forever for homemade yogurt with jam. But as of now, my plain yogurt mixed with strawberry jam is pretty much his favorite snack treat. Lucky, deluded child.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Unintentional Still Life

Sometimes the beauty in everyday life can be just astonishing.


The table in the living room at 3:52 p.m. yesterday. Perfect.

The Downside to Narcissism

If a blog (by which I mean my blog) is all about one person (by which I mean me), what happens when that person feels less than interesting?

I mean, do you really want to read about how Cubby and Charlie keep rubber-banding pens and pencils all over their supposedly cuddly stuffed animals to make Battle Puppy and Battle Sheep? And then I have to confiscate all the pointy writing implements before Jack rams them through his cheeks or something during his speed-crawling?

Or how sick I am of yelling, "IT'S NOT A COMPETITION!" to every damn thing that Cubby and Charlie make into a competition? Which is everything. (Seriously. How many buttons are on their shirts? Does one have more than the other? It's a competition. SERIOUSLY.)

Or how I forced myself to make yogurt yesterday even though I was really tired and didn't want to because I knew I needed to make laundry soap today and I use the same pot for both things?

Or how at the moment I have two freezers stuffed full of venison and beef, but I'm getting pretty burned out on red meat? And yet have very little energy or desire to drive all the way to the grocery store to get an alternative, which won't be that great, anyway, because grocery store meat never is and it seems that all I ever cook is meat?

Or how I think kale chips are vastly overrated?

Or how Jack is turning one next week and the best party I could come up with was basically a glorified playdate with two other mothers and their kids, at which I will hand out cupcakes and we'll sing Happy Birthday, but A. and the MiL won't be there because I have to do it during the day because having a birthday a week before Christmas means there is WAY too much going on? And I feel sort of guilty about this, because I myself am a third child with a birthday right around Christmas and I know how much it sucks. (Not that he'll remember anything about it, but this is all about me, remember?)

Or how tired I am of being tired?

See? Just not that interesting. And yet, I still typed it all out. Because it's all I got.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

There's a Direct Correlation

Cubby and Charlie are sick, with all the nighttime wakings that entails. This morning during a shower I took in a desperate quest* to wake myself up, I accidentally washed my hair with body wash instead of shampoo.

The stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year's should just be renamed something like the mucous season.

* If "quest" seems like a strange word to use there, it is. The reason I used it is because I spent, no lie, at least thirty seconds staring dumbly at my computer screen trying to think of the word "attempt." This is your brain on sleep deprivation, kids. It's an ugly thing.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Weekend of the Buck

A. has spent more time in the kitchen this weekend than he has in the past five years. He was determined to do all the processing of the buck himself. Except for the substantial dishes associated with butchering* that I took care of, he did do it all. All the skinning, all the quartering, all the boning out, and all the trimming.

SO MUCH TRIMMING.

He trimmed and trimmed and trimmed, standing at the counter in the kitchen almost all of yesterday afternoon. In the end, he stuffed about ten quart-size freezer bags full of stew meat and stowed it away in the upstairs freezer.

He also even more carefully trimmed and then tediously threaded on toothpicks many pieces of meat to put in the smoker to make jerky and, eventually, pemmican.

But he wasn't done yet. There was still a big stock pot full of meat in the refrigerator awaiting trimming and cutting up today. Perhaps out of boredom, perhaps because I had made a passing reference to possibly maybe if I feel like it attempting sausage, he decided to make sausage.

By hand.

So he trimmed some more, and then he started chopping with the cleaver. The steady thumping of the cleaver rang out from the kitchen for a good half hour as he methodically chopped his way through five and a half pounds of venison. And then another pound and a half of lard.

I had suggested we could use the food processor, but he said he didn't want to mess around with it.

We had to use it in the end after all, however, because the lard wasn't cold enough and was just kind of clumping together. So we whirled it all around in the food processor until the fat was well-incorporated into the meat.

Then the seasonings. I helped with this part, finding a recipe online for a Spanish-style sausage and then bastardizing it by substituting garlic powder for green onions, some smoked paprika for the all sweet, and a lot less salt and rosemary than called for.

(Less rosemary because I don't like it as a main flavoring, and less salt because every single recipe I have ever tried for cured or salted meat is WAAAAY too salty. Seriously. We no longer rely on salt as a preservative, thanks to the miracles of refrigeration, so there's no need to overdo it.)

We mixed it all together and then fried a test patty (no casings, so no links).

I tasted it. "Tastes like chorizo," I said.

A. tasted it. "Yeah," he said with a big grin. "It does taste like chorizo. I can't believe we accidentally made venison chorizo!"

A. loves chorizo. Really loves it. So this accidental chorizo was just about the best outcome he could have hoped for.

We froze the patties individually on parchment paper to be stored in freezer bags later. And now all that's left of the buck are some really appetizing scraps for the dogs . . .


This doesn't look appetizing to you? Well, you're obviously not a dog.

And the antlers . . .


One for each boy. Well, each boy big enough to appreciate them, anyway.


An antler fight was just inevitable.

A round of applause and three cheers for A., who took that deer from field to freezer all by himself. I didn't miss doing all that trimming one bit.

* Think small bits of flesh on pots and pans, knives and cleavers, cutting boards, counters, floors . . . flesh everywhere. Totally gross. And surprisingly adhesive.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Once Again, No Photos

The butchering of the buck has commenced. Cubby and Charlie are helping A. Jack is not.

There is a severed deer head lying on the patio just outside the dining room door. Which is better than when there was a severed deer head in Charlie's hand and he was insisting that everyone feel how heavy it is.

I'm staying inside. It's warmer and way less gruesome than out there.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Heart--It's What's for Dinner. Maybe.

When A. dressed out the buck he shot on Sunday, he brought in a pot containing the tenderloins and the heart. The tenderloins are just regular ole chunks of meat. Easy to cook and hard to mess up.

The heart, however . . .

I've never actually prepared a deer heart before. It's been sitting in the refrigerator while I work up the desire to do so. Any recipe that starts with "squeeze to remove remaining blood" just somehow doesn't sound very appetizing.

But the heart is a muscle like any other piece of meat once it's been prepared correctly. So here I go to pump a heart that is not my own and then cook it.

Wish me luck.

Edited to add: That wasn't bad at all. Once I trimmed away the membrane that surrounds the whole heart and then sliced off the nasty bits at the very top--presumably where the arteries and all connect--the meat was quite pleasing, actually. No sinew or bones or fat or anything difficult, just nice red meat. Way less disgusting that plucking a chicken, for sure. I ended up with probably about a pound and a quarter that I cut into small pieces. I think I'll make goulash. Ghoulish goulash? Heh.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

It's That Time of Year Again

When I go out to the shed to get some wood and am confronted with four severed deer legs on top of the woodpile.

No warning this time, either.

I didn't take a picture. You're welcome.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Bring In the Buck, Boys


Fair warning: Dead deer photos ahead.

This is the second weekend of rifle season for deer, and A. was on the hunt for a buck. He got a doe last weekend, which has already been made into one roasted haunch for Thanksgiving dinner, plus two gallons of chili and two gallons of stock for the freezer.

His other tag was for a buck, which of course are less common than does and therefore that much more exciting to hunt. He's been out every day for the past four without even spotting a buck. But this morning, he went out, hiked to the neighbor's gully, and shot a buck within ten minutes.

And then he had to get it home.

He dragged it down the gully until he got just across from our house, then he dragged it up the gully bank and we brought him the utility sled to get it the rest of the way home. Cubby and Charlie had just returned from their church outing with the MiL. Good thing they were there to help.


I'm sure A. never would have gotten it home without them pushing at the rear.

Once it was on our lawn, A. drove the Subaru to the sled and hooked the sled to the trailer hitch to tow it the rest of the way.


Dashing through the mud, in a one-buck open sleigh . . .

Jack was there, though his contribution was negligible.


Deeply skeptical of this whole proceeding.

He did get a close-up look at the antlers, though.


Blackrock baby and a buck.

The buck has been hung in a tree, thoroughly cleaned, and washed out with the hose. It is even now dripping onto the lawn, awaiting butchering next weekend.

You just never do know what a Sunday afternoon will bring at Blackrock.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Yes, I Am Hiding

Charlie has been sick for a few days, and shrieking at all hours of the night for a few nights now. I am tired.

No, I am exhausted.

At 6:30 this morning, both Charlie and Cubby were up. I managed to get Charlie to actually eat something--his total food intake for over 24 hours stood at two bites of grilled cheese and four spoonfuls of rice, plus milk--and instructed Cubby to get himself a banana.

When we retired to the living room to play and they both grabbed two animals each to start fighting each other, I decided my presence was really unnecessary.

So I came into the dining room, shut the door behind me, and got another cup of coffee.

That was fifteen minutes ago. Cubby just came into the dining room to inquire about the whereabouts of Daddy and sing irritating nonsense songs.

It's raining and 37 degrees. It's going to be a long day.

Happy Saturday after Thanksgiving! Bah.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful?




Times three.

Happy Thanksgiving, my lovelies. Keep calm and eat pie.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Powered Down

This morning when I returned from dropping Cubby and Charlie at their respective schools, I found the power was out. Jack was ready for his nap, so I put him down to sleep and then . . . nothing.

Couldn't vacuum. Couldn't start laundry. So many chores are impossible without electricity.

But the woodstove was blazing away perkily and I had a new book I hadn't yet started*. So I sat down by the fire and read until the power came on 45 minutes later.

Then I spent some time flipping breakers and switching around fuses in our ridiculously confusing electrical system, trying to figure out why some of the appliances in the kitchen were working and some weren't.

It was a very nice 45 minutes, though. (And everything is working now.)

* Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson. I'm only about fifty pages in, but so far, I approve. The writing's good, anyway.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Welcome to Camp Blackrock for Boys

Cubby had a friend over to play this morning. The friend hopped out of his car and asked, "Where are the spears?"

He's been here before. He knows what to expect.

Over the next three hours, those two boys plus Charlie did the following things:

-Set a (questionably effective) deadfall trap under the copper beech tree on the front lawn.

-Dug potatoes and leeks in the garden.


Mia supervised.

-Hauled a sled-load of wood from the shed to the big woodbox by the dining room door.


That utility sled is a three-boy job.

-Ate the potatoes and leeks they dug from the garden. After I cooked them with bacon and cheese, that is.

-Made and hunted with spears in the pasture, which involved commando-crawling through the grass. It was a very serious endeavor, although not ultimately successful.

-Climbed the persimmon tree in the pasture to harvest and eat a few persimmons*.

-Climbed around the old barn foundations and dragged out a fairly large sapling.

-Sawed the sapling into smaller lengths to make bows.

The bow-making was interrupted by Cubby's friend's mom arriving to pick him up. But he'll be back to finish the job, I have no doubt. Boys always want to come back to Blackrock. Maybe girls would, too, but I wouldn't know about that.

* Cubby's friend, who had never had a persimmon before, thoughtfully remarked that they taste like sunscreen. Upon reflection, I can kind of see what he means. But then, I'm not a fan of persimmons.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Flip Side of the Coin

Sometimes my children are real jerks--as are all children on occassion--and they say really jerky things. Please see Exhibit A.

But then there are moments like this morning when I dropped Cubby off at school. I picked him up for a hug, as I always do (though this is getting increasingly difficult as he grows ever larger). He wrapped himself around me and said, "I want to stay near your heart forever."

You will, my love. Forever.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Rooster Battle Gear

A. dispatched the rooster yesterday morning, and I currently have approximately three gallons of chicken stock in my refrigerator awaiting pressure canning.

HOORAY.

This was the great excitement for me, of course, but for Cubby and Charlie, who were naturally present for all activity regarding the rooster killing, the great excitement was the wings. A. decided to just whack off the head, wings, and feet and then skin the bird, forgoing all the wretched plucking and saving him about half an hour. This meant there were various parts of the rooster on the table outside while he was doing the skinning.

I'm not sure which child discovered the wings first, but they certainly weren't going to let those wings go to waste.

Cubby currently has a spear with a stone point (that he also made himself in the style of a caveman, i.e., by smashing shale with other rocks), and he decided it needed decoration.


I suspect it will be mostly ceremonial rather than actually useful for hunting, but the feathers are a nice touch.

Charlie elected to keep his wing intact and spread it out to make a shield.


Kind of reminds me of those feather fans I associate with Marie Antoinette for some reason. Not, I think, the idea he was going for.

Jack didn't get a wing, seeing as there are only two on a rooster and he's not even a year old. 


He wisely decided to crawl away from this scene.

Chicken stock for me, feathered battle gear for them. Everyone's happy.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Rewards of Just Being Yourself

Soon I will have many quarts of chicken stock made from a 100% free-range chicken that I did not have to raise myself, and all because of my unashamed woodchuckiness.

See, what happened was, I was talking to a couple of other mothers at the St. Martin's Day celebration at the preschool this week, and one of the women mentioned that her daughter's young chicken flock is turning out to have a few roosters. Chickens are often sold in what's called a "straight run," meaning the hatchery just gathers up a bunch of chicks without trying to figure out their sex (which is kind of hard to do at only a couple of days old, anyway) and you just wait for them to mature to see what you end up with. 

So this flock is just now getting mature enough to tell the sex, and there are some roosters. There is one particular rooster that is of course the prettiest one, and also of course is the most obnoxious. This seems to be a corollary for males of every species.

Anyway.

The woman mentioned that this rooster had been stalking the home inspector who came to their house and kind of scared the man, though the rooster had not yet displayed any signs of aggression to the family.

So I told her about our ill-fated Welsummer rooster and how the aggression only escalates. I also mentioned the roosters we were given by the MiL's co-worker for disposal after they had gotten too difficult to handle.

Basically, I announced that we are the final resting place for all asshole roosters. Or rather, my stockpot is. 

I am the master of party conversation, yes.

It's cool, though, because this woman's mother is the MiL's cousin, and I happen to know that one time a rooster jumped up to spur her--the mother--while she was walking across the yard, and she grabbed it in mid-air and broke its neck. 

Bad. Ass.

I figure if you grow up with a lady like that, you're not going to be disturbed by the fact that I enjoy cooking mean roosters.

Anyway again.

Two days after this conversation, I got an e-mail from the chicken owner saying the rooster had started getting aggressive with her and wouldn't back down even when she kicked it, so we could have it if we wanted it.

YES.

Now my chicken stock supply for the winter is assured, and all because of my total ineptitude with polite small talk. 

Woodchucks win again.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Bearer of Meat

Tonight is yet another St. Martin's Day celebration at what is now Charlie's preschool and, as always, there's a potluck beforehand. Also as always, when we were asked to tell the teacher what we would bring for the potluck, I replied, "A large quantity of meat."

The main reason I bring meat to every kind of potluck is because A. always attends with me. And pretty much all he eats is meat. But not a lot of people bring meat. You'll have your pick of pasta dishes or desserts, but not much meat. So I bring meat so A. has something to eat.

As I said to A., when it comes to potlucks, you should be the change you want to see. That is, bring what you want to eat yourself.

Also, braising a large hunk of animal flesh is a lot easier than, say, chopping all the stuff for a big salad.

Tonight's large hunk of flesh is even larger than usual, a truly impressively sized sirloin roast. It was so big I had trouble finding a pot big enough to cook it in. But there are going to be forty or so people in attendance at this event, so I bet it will all be gone by the end. I've never yet had any leftovers from a meat offering at a potluck, as a matter of fact. I don't expect this one will be any different.

Now I just have to remember to remove the string . . .

Monday, November 9, 2015

Hello, Monday! Can I Go Back To Bed?

I'm very sore this morning. That's because I spent quite a bit of time yesterday stacking wood and raking, shoveling, and wheelbarrowing a very heavy mess composed of bark from the firewood plus walnuts and leaves that had dropped on said firewood.

But! Almost all of the wood from the storm-felled trees has been neatly stacked, the part of the driveway where that wood has been is now almost entirely cleaned up, and we have a LOT of BTUs ready to go for the winter.

If you need me, I'll be resting my aching muscles by the blazing woodstove. (Except not really, because I have to be where the children are, and the children should not really be by the blazing woodstove. But I could if I didn't have to supervise Blackrock's WWE display every day.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Futility of Fall

I spent about twenty minutes raking the lawn right outside the dining room door before going to pick up Charlie from preschool.


Sadly, this is the "after" picture, though I know it looks more like most people's "before." And I've already raked this lawn twice in the past week.


This is the pile I raked up in those twenty minutes.


And this is what was still above me. Curses.

So pretty. So much work. Must be fall at Blackrock.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

From the Cameras of Babes

Cubby commandeered the camera again, and through its lens managed to capture the quintessence of parenthood:


Early morning exhaustion with big-ass cups of coffee. Nailed it.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Oh, right. Costumes.

I was supposed to post the requisite "cute children in adorable costumes" photo yesterday, wasn't I? Eh. Here it is:


Cute children (courtesy of me), adorable costumes (courtesy of my mother). Plus a dog.

As you can see, Cubby decided to be a fighter pilot. Actually, he wanted to be a parakeet, but there is no such thing as a non-creepy parakeet costume, so I sold him on fighter pilot by saying he could be like Baca. Baca is my dad. He was a fighter pilot for many years. Cubby's suit has a patch for the F-117, which I found out was the Nighthawk. My dad never flew this plane, but I don't think there was an option for an A-10 fighter pilot costume on Amazon.

Charlie wanted to be a bull. This is a very cute costume. Though I did make him promise before I put it on him that he would be a nice bull like Ferdinand. Not that Charlie would ever dream of charging at anyone while in his bull costume.


Especially not his baby brother the lamb.

Jack is dressed as Cubby circa 2010. Because the third child always wears the hand-me-downs, even in costumes.

And one last Halloween note: When A. was offered the Halloween bowl to choose his treat after dinner, he chose Sweetarts. Really. Out of all the chocolate in that bowl, he chose Sweetarts. That's like the garbage candy I always tried to trade away first as a kid. Given our basic incompatibility in matters such as these, it's amazing we've managed to stay married for over a dozen years. Or maybe that is the reason why. Sweetarts for him, Kit Kats for me, and everyone's happy.

Happy day after Halloween, my lovelies.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Bring on the Sugar!

Cubby got off the bus yesterday with a small bag that had been presented to him by his bus driver. It had a picture of a grinning jack-o-lantern on it, and the innocent child thought it was filled with balloons or something.

Isn't it nice he's gotten to five years old without understanding the true candy-fueled nature of Halloween?

He was delighted to discover it held candy, which he of course wanted to eat. I let him and Charlie pick out one piece each to eat before dinner, and then dumped the rest into the bowl I dubbed "the Halloween bowl*." I decreed they can each pick one piece for dessert after dinner.

I am the most un-fun mom ever, yes.

Both Cubby and Charlie are going trick-or-treating in the village with their schools today, which means more candy for the Halloween bowl. Cubby has not yet come home with the wondrous news that you can go trick-or-treating on the actual day of Halloween and get bags full of candy, but he'll eventually learn that at school. Because it's not just botany he learns there.

So we'll see if he insists on trick-or-treating on Saturday. If he doesn't, I'm not going to suggest it. We have plenty of years for that in the future. And anyway, I'm sure he's going to be flying high as a sugar kite when he gets off the bus today, so the traditional Halloween sugar gorging will not be denied him. Along with the traditional Halloween sugar crash.

Should be a fun afternoon.

* This bowl, actually. We probably have the classiest Halloween bowl in the country. Thanks, Dad!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Leashed

I'm on day four of Mia's convalescence, and I can already tell you that if I had to live somewhere where a dog could only be leashed and walked by me to go to the bathroom, I would not have a dog. What a drag, man.

She's getting better about being a leash dog. When I first started taking her out, she would just wander around aimlessly, stopping to stand around and sniff the air, maybe just flop down on the grass. Basically, acting as she usually does when she's outside, because she is never outside on a leash. 

Thankfully, she's slowly gotten the idea that when she's out on that leash, she is out there to relieve herself. So now when we go out, she's pretty quick to sniff around, find her spot, and get the intended activity over with so we can go back inside. 

Even so, whenever I can get A. to do it for me, it's like a great gift has been given to me. Because wrapping up a dog's food in plastic and walking her on a leash multiple times a day is not really something I felt was missing from my life. Especially when I have to figure out what to do with a crawling infant while I'm wandering around with a leashed dog. Or when I'm walking the dog on one end of the leash and Charlie on the other end of it, because he wants to "help."

Anyway.

I take her to the vet tomorrow to get the bandage changed. I am not at all hopeful that the bandage will be left off, which means at least a few more days of the leash. But eventually, she'll be let loose to get her foot as wet as she wants and wander aimlessly once again.

Freedom will taste sweet indeed. For both of us.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Caring for the Wounded

I took Mia to the vet yesterday morning. She needed some vaccinations anyway, and I didn't like the look of the toe that the raccoon got a hold of.

Good thing I took her, because her toe was nearly severed. Not that you could tell from her behavior. Collies are ridiculously stoic dogs, and Mia is even more stoic than the average collie. So she was just walking around with her toe almost off, like, "Whatever. It's just a scratch." She even tried to go back under the porch after A. shot the raccoon, to make sure it was dead, I guess.

Brave, or kind of stupid? Maybe both.

Anyway, I had to leave her at the vet's office so the vet could sew her toe back together. I went to pick her up at 4:30 yesterday afternoon and she was in a very pleasant drug stupor and had a stylish orange camo-patterned bandage on her foot.


It's her Halloween costume. She's going as a wounded raccoon assassin.

So now I have a week of wrapping her foot in a plastic bag and taking her out on a leash several times a day for potty breaks. A serious pain in the ass, but a dog so brave deserves some care. Maybe even a medal. Though I think she would prefer a steak bone. I could probably manage that.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Old Gray Dogs, They Ain't What They Used To Be

Early this morning, I heard the sounds of dog battle from the front of the house. Otty was the only dog outside, but when I went out to investigate, I didn't see her or anything else. Last week she got all torn up in the face after an altercation with some varmint right after I let her out in the morning, so I wanted to find her to make sure she wasn't injured. A. found her shortly thereafter and said she didn't have any wounds or anything, so we figured she had chased something off and then we forgot about it.

Later when I called Cubby in for lunch, he came in and announced, "There's something scary under the front porch. It growled and rustled around when I was under there."

Immediately, I thought of Otty's skirmish early in the morning and her ripped up face last week, and I knew what was under the front porch.

So while the kids ate their lunch, I took the spotlight outside and stood by the north side opening to shine it under the front porch. Sure enough, there were the glowing eyes of a raccoon reflecting the light back at me from the south corner under the porch.

DAMMIT.

I called A. at work to let him know his gun would be called into service when he got home from work (he just loves to get those kinds of calls at work), and after the kids were done with their lunch, I told them they could see the coon. So we went back out with the spotlight. Unfortunately, Mia found us and immediately plunged under the porch.

SHIIIIT.

I knew this wasn't going to end well. Not only is Mia getting up there in years (almost 10, which is pretty old for a collie), but she's been lame in one shoulder for a little while now. She's not exactly in prime fighting condition, and raccoons are fierce and aggressive fighters.

There was really nothing I could do except call Otty to help her. Otty came over and went under when I pushed her in that direction, but she came scurrying out again almost immediately, with Mia right behind her. I guess Otty had had enough run-ins with that raccoon and wanted nothing more to do with it.

The coon was still under the porch, and now Mia had a ripped-up toe. Great.

Though I was pretty sure that coon was not going anywhere while there was daylight, I still didn't feel very comfortable having the kids playing outside while it was under there. It was too nice a day to stay inside, though, so we went to the Punishing Playground, which pleased the children greatly. Jack was only partially enthusiastic, mostly because I thought his coat was in the car and it wasn't, so he wasn't as warm as he might have been. I did commandeer Charlie's hat for him--over Charlie's voluble protests--but he was still a little chilly.

Anyway.

There were no further incidents with the raccoon until the besuited assassin arrived home at 5:30 p.m. He changed into his killin' clothes, loaded up the .22, spotlighted the coon, aimed, and fired. Four times. That's how many shots it took to kill it. Apparently, raccoons have to be shot right in the brain to kill them, so the target area is only a couple of inches. Kind of a difficult shot while crouching and aiming into a dark spot.

It expired in the end, though, and after dinner A. skinned it in preparation for tanning.

Good riddance.

Breeding Contempt

Me and Charlie on the porch:

Me: I love you, Charlie.

Charlie: No, you don't.

Me: Of course I do.

Charlie: Well, I don't like you.

Me in the kitchen in the morning making chicken salad for Cubby's lunch, Cubby appears scowling:

Cubby: Mommy, I like it when Daddy is the only one downstairs in the morning. I don't like it when you're here.

All of us in the living room:

Charlie: Daddy is the best.

Cubby: Daddy is fun.

Charlie: I'm going to throw you in the garbage, Mommy.

This morning in the kitchen:

Cubby: I have to eat this nasty egg? You are a TERRIBLE COOK.

Motherhood: The most unappreciated job on the planet.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Soggy Triumph

Someone tried to steal our water pump from the lakeshore last week. We ran out of water on Thursday and I trekked down with the gas can to start the pump only to find that all the pieces of the outtake had been disassembled and, more distressingly, the plug on the bottom to drain the pump was missing.

Can't run a pump if it's draining water the whole time. Shit.

So I called for a water delivery. Defeat.

And then, this morning, A. announced we were low on water already, so no laundry or showering until he could get a new plug for the pump.

Shit again.

He thought he was just going to have to guess at the size, but then he remembered that the plug on the top of the pump that can be taken off to put in water for priming* is the exact same as the one on the bottom drain plug. So if I took off the top one and brought it to the hardware store, maybe the man there could find a piece of plumbing hardware to substitute for the missing plug.

And here's where we sing the praises of Small Town Living.

I stopped at the lakeshore on the way to drop off Cubby and Charlie at school and took off the piece I needed. After dropping off Cubby and Charlie at their respective schools, I brought the piece to the tiny hardware store in the tiny village and handed it over to Ted, the hardware man.

Yes, that is is real, actual name.

He found a substitute for me and rang it up. It was two dollars. I had exactly $1.45 in my wallet. He said that was enough and sent me on my way.

Blessings on Ted the hardware man.

I drove right down to the beach and left Jack in his carseat while I trekked to the pump. Thanks to an enormous cottonwood branch that has fallen between the road and the lakeshore, this requires bushwhacking through the brush--thereby getting covered in weed seeds--and then literally climbing over the fallen limb.

That accomplished, I plugged the bottom part, deciding that I should use the old plastic piece from the top, because it screws in tighter than the metal replacement and wouldn't there be more pressure on the bottom hole?

Spoiler alert: I was wrong.

So plastic piece on the bottom, water poured in the top for priming, new metal piece on the top, engine on, choke adjusted, pull the cord, and HOORAY! It's running. Except the hole in the top with the new metal piece was bubbling alarmingly, obviously not very tightly plugged.

But there was water coming out of the pump (as evidenced by the dripping where the outtake is connected), so I crawled over the tree, through the brush, back to the car (and an unhappy Jack still in his carseat) drove up to the house and checked the pipe to the cistern.

No water.

Dammitalltohell.

Back in the car, back to the lakeshore, back over the tree, through the brush. Turn off the pump, take off the top metal piece and the bottom plastic piece to switch them. Get the top piece on and realize there is actually quite a lot of water still draining out of that hole from the pipe. But I really couldn't wait on it to drain all the way (Jack in the carseat, you know), so I shoved the metal piece on and screwed it in, thereby spraying myself continuously with fountains of water.

Like one of those fun splash pads! Except not fun!

After thoroughly soaking myself but eventually managing to get the plug screwed in, I turned the engine back on, switched on the choke, and pulled the cord. It didn't start. I tried again. Nothing. Again again again . . . and then I realized, oh right. The engine was just running a minute ago. I don't need the choke. So I turned it off and the engine started on the first pull.

Okay! Over the tree and through the woods to the minivan (and a really pissed-off Jack) we go!

I had no great hope this minor adjustment would have done any good, and I was ready to turn right around and go back to the beach to turn off the pump in defeat. But what's this I hear? Is that . . . water rushing into the cistern?

Yes! Glory, glory, alleluia!

Except instead of saying something appropriately pious, I raised my arms in victory and said, "YES. IT'S A FUCKING MIRACLE."

I can be profane in times of great emotion.

That was twenty minutes ago. The water is still flowing into the cistern. I declare victory. Let's just hope the delinquents who tried to steal the pump in the first place don't come back.

* Priming means getting some water into the pump and pipes so there's enough to get the pressure going for pumping. At least, I think that's why you have to prime it. Something about replacing the air in the pipes with the liquid to be pumped. I don't know. I'm obviously no expert.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fun Fall Family Photos

No, I will not spell it "fotos," ever.

Anyway.

I took some pictures yesterday. Let's view them, shall we?


Turning the leaf pile into a leaf carpet, as per tradition.


Charlie still rocks the shades with serious attitude, albeit with less bling.


Nothing like a leaf-bed nap. (I find this photo a little creepy. Also, Charlie looks about six feet tall in this, which is also disturbing in a "look what the future holds" kind of way.)


HA! A photo of the elusive celebrity in which he not technically scowling! Not technically smiling, either, but it's the best I got.


Even a Mommy and Me selfie won't make him smile. He's a tough one, that Charlie.


This one, however, has no issues with smiling for the camera.


Or with smiling in general. Love that smiley Jack.

Cubby was at school, which is why he doesn't appear in these photos. Luckily, he doesn't know what he missed.