Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Season for Sickness

We went a suspiciously long time this fall without any illness in the family whatsoever. For a family with small children, one of whom attends a breeding ground for viruses euphemistically known as a preschool, it's something of a miracle to have a two-month stretch with no one dripping from the nose or coughing or whatever.

Then December came. And Cubby got sick. Then he got sick again. Then I got sick. Then I had a baby. Then Charlie got sick. Then Cubby got sick AGAIN (we can see the weak link here, can't we?), then the MiL got sick, and then . . . dun dun DUN. Down went A.

He went down in a spectacular fashion, with what I suspect is strep throat. He's always been particularly susceptible to strep during holidays and other times of stress. I think a jury trial, a new baby, AND Christmas qualifies as a high-stress time. Wouldn't you agree? Yeah, so does his diseased throat.

When I called his office for him yesterday morning to let them know he wouldn't be in and someone else would have to meet with his scheduled clients, the paralegal who answered the phone noted my newborn, two small children, and sick husband situation and jokingly asked if I would rather come into the office today. Probably one of the few days on which being a lawyer would be preferable to being a stay-at-home mother, actually.

Anyway. A. is going to go to the doctor today to get his antibiotics, the older children are still hacking but are otherwise on the mend, and neither I nor the baby have succumbed to anything yet.

And I am now knocking on a whole forest of wood.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

This Is 35

I turn 35 years old today, and all I got for my birthday was . . .

This guy. With the bonus of not being pregnant anymore. Can I get an AMEN, ALLELUIA, and HOORAY? Yes.

I also get a Cold Stone ice cream cake that I ordered myself online yesterday and that A. is even now picking up for me. It seems an unlikely thing to even have a Cold Stone Creamery in such a Small City, but it opened here a couple of years ago, allowing me to have the very same peanut butter ice cream cake I had last year at my parents' house in Tucson. 

Miracles of the modern commercial age of chain restaurants nationwide, I suppose.

Feel free to eat some cake in my honor today, my lovelies. Or just because it's fun to eat cake. Whatever.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Miracles Abound

Hooray for Jack, the voracious eater and champion pooper who is successfully fighting off jaundice! The first of my children to do so without medical intervention, incidentally. He wins the newborn prize.

Hooray also for A., who went to buy a new computer last night after work so I could post pictures for you. Because I know that you could do with fewer words and more photos. Me too.

Let's do it.

Immediately post-birth. I'm not sure what A. was expecting, but by the expression on his face, it doesn't appear he was expecting a baby.

The first meeting of the band of brothers.

And their totally outnumbered mother.

Eating his sleeve in the absence of milk.

At the moment this photo was taken, Charlie was singing the bumblebee song* and Cubby was telling an involved story about trapping mink. Jack was obviously entertained.

Merry Christmas Eve, my lovelies. 

* "I'm bringing home a baby bumblebee, won't my mommy be so proud of me . . ." etc. It's a favorite of the under-three crowd.

Cross Your Fingers

Or say a rosary or send happy thoughts into the cosmos. Whatever you do to try to force a positive outcome, I need it. I have to take Jack in for another blood test this morning to see if his bilirubin levels are going down. They were a little too high last night when he was tested after his routine office visit, so if they aren't going down, Jack and I will be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the hospital.

That, to state the obvious, would suck a lot. So. Positive thoughts our way this morning, okay?

Peace out.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Baby Makes Five

Yesterday was my official due date. I didn't make it.


By 8 p.m. on Thursday, December 18, Blackrock Baby #3 had arrived and shortly thereafter commenced eating.

These kids of mine sure do take naturally to the eating.

The delivery was eerily similar to the other two, i.e., natural, relatively short, and no complications. This child had the decency to be born with the same blood type as me, and will therefore--we hope--escape the dreaded jaundice that plagued the other two and forced me to spend way more time eating hospital food than I wanted to.

This baby* looks quite a bit like his older brothers, about the same weight (8 pounds, 2 ounces), a little longer (22 inches), and lots of dark hair. I would show you a picture, but I'm currently typing this on the MiL's computer, because A.'s computer suffered a busted screen after he dropped it leaping up to rescue Cubby from a falling coat rack. This happened yesterday an hour after I got home from the hospital. I was upstairs putting Charlie down for a nap, which he ended up not taking.

So yesterday's homecoming included a non-napping toddler, a broken computer, and a thankfully not-injured small boy who came down with a cold this morning.

Life with three boys under five? You're looking at it.

Welcome to the craziness of Blackrock, little dude. You'll love us, promise.

* As for the name . . . obviously we shan't use the real name, but let's go with Jack. That goes well with Cubby and Charlie, right? Right. Baby Jack it is.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Crushing on the Washing Machine

Last week I had our small-appliance repair guy--a high school classmate of the MiL's, because this is Small Town America--come to clean out our seriously underperforming dryer.

While he was here, I mentioned that we were going to be getting a new washing machine soon, since our current washing machine was purchased very used for $90 about ten years ago. And it wasn't really getting the clothes very clean anymore. And it didn't spin them particularly dry, either.

Basically, a clear loser.

Bob the repair guy (yes, that is his real name) said that he always recommends a brand called Speed Queen, available at the locally owned appliance store we always go to in the Small City.

Bob has been fixing washing machines longer than I've been alive. If he recommends a particular brand, I'm gonna buy it.

So A. went to the appliance store on his lunch break and took a look at the Speed Queen. The display for it featured a look at the inside gears and things of the Speed Queen versus the more common brands. The Speed Queen is all steel. The other ones are all plastic. Also, the Speed Queen has no electronic button pad; it's all sturdy knobs. That don't break.

Hello, my pretty. Nice knobs.

Oh, and it's still made in the U.S.

In addition, Speed Queen makes the machines that are used in laundromats. And by the Army. And, according to the salesman at the appliance store, the local dairy farms buy Speed Queens.

Well, I think that kind of machine could handle the level of filth generated by the inhabitants of Blackrock. I mean, we might not be at dairy-farm level grossness, but it can get pretty bad around here.

And finally, most machines for home use have an average life of eight years. The Speed Queen will hold up for 15 even with commercial use (so they say), and 25 years with home use.


A. bought it. It cost a few hundred dollars more than a cheap machine at Home Depot or wherever, but I have to think it will be worth it.

It was delivered yesterday. I haven't used it much yet, obviously, so I can't say if it will live up to the hype, but I must say I'm quite excited about the idea of it. It will be nice to have really clean clothes. That's all I really ask from a washing machine. And I think the Speed Queen will deliver.

And no, I have no affiliation with this brand and had never heard of it until Bob the repair guy tipped me off, so this is not sponsored. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Time To Sing!

Yes! That great day has arrived once again! The day when we all celebrate A.'s birthday with yet another rendition of "The Woodchuck Man Can." Every year, my lovelies. Every year.

Who can take two small boys camping overnight?
Who can sway the court by day and shoot varmints in the night?

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 make a cane pole cut from our own land?
Who can dig the biggest ditch ever dug by hand?

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 clear the cistern of a dozen rotting rats?
Who can shoot a doe and make it into chili just like that?

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 reigning woodchuck king of Blackrock.

P.S. As always, feel free to add your own verse should you be inspired. Or you could just say "Happy Birthday." That's always good, too.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Labor Saving

I have had another thrilling domestic epiphany, similar to that "ohhhhh" moment when I learned about nuking a dishcloth so it wouldn't smell in the morning.

Bear with me. I find these things exciting.

This particular epiphany had to do with the tile on the wall surrounding the shower downstairs. It's very nice tile--handmade Italian tile with raised designs and fancy ridged grouting.

It is also a complete bitch to clean.

The fancy grouting and the raised designs are prime areas for mildew and mold to grow. And we have just about the most mildew-prone bathroom you'll ever encounter anyway, so this is a real problem. The only way I could get the grout and tiles clean was with a toothbrush. Attacking all the tile with a toothbrush took about an hour and left my hands in a claw-like state for an hour afterwards (even before I was dealing with pregnancy-related carpal tunnel).

Needless to say, I was never eager to get right on it. Which is why the wall was usually in really deplorable condition before I would reluctantly break out the toothbrush.

This is the condition it has been in for the past, oh, two weeks or so. But now I REALLY didn't feel up to the toothbrushing, thanks to the aforementioned carpal tunnel and being, um, nine months pregnant.

But I ALSO knew that if I didn't do it now, I was not going to be doing it anytime in the near future and I just could not deal with facing that horrifying wall of tile for the next two months.

And this is when I had my revelation: I needed a bigger brush.

I know. Sometimes I am not the brightest light on the Christmas tree.

The MiL had actually bought me a bigger brush some time ago, thinking it would work for that tile. But it had a long handle that made it really awkward to scrub a wall with. What I needed, I thought, was a big, long and flat scrub brush of the sort that I associate with maids in the Victorian era scrubbing floors on their hands and knees. Like this.

Or like a similar brush the MiL bought awhile ago for cleaning her horse blankets (I think), but that has actually been in more or less constant use in our house as a scrub brush for a lot of other things.

So I used it. And all hail the brush, I scrubbed that tile clean in ten minutes flat.

There were some areas near the corners where the toothbrush will still be useful, but overall, I have found my mildew salvation. Alleluia.

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Profound Realization

When Charlie was born, I distinctly remember feeling frustrated and sad about the fact that my time and attention was now split between two children. I didn't like feeling that either child was getting less than all of me.

I was thinking about this tonight as I was putting Cubby and Charlie to bed, and assuming it would be even worse with three children among whom I must divide my attention.

But then I had a thought that stopped me in my mental tracks: My kids might get fractionally less of me, but they get a whole, entire other person.

I realized that while a mother (or father, or whoever the primary caregiver is) is paramount when the children are small, there is going to be a lot of their lives after they're . . . well, not small. And for the rest of their lives, they'll have not just me and their father, but their two brothers to support them. Adding a family member is never a diminishment.

Of course, explaining this concept to a child under the age of five is not really possible when every one of the three children is vying for space on Mommy's lap. At such moments of less than brotherly love, I'll just have to remember this profound breakthrough.

And then maybe hide in the bathroom. Because profundity can only help so much.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas Newsletter: The e-Version

I love getting those long, detailed family newsletters at Christmas with all the pictures and updates on every single family member plus pets. I'm not being sarcastic. We always got a lot when I was younger, because they're particularly useful in military circles for keeping up with all those people you know for three years before moving to the next assignment. I would read every one we got, even if I didn't really remember the people who sent them.

A. said we should send one out. I would, but in truth, I am far, far too lazy for all the printing and the addressing and the mailing and all. But the writing? That, I can do. 

And so! Presenting: The Family Blackrock's Christmas Newsletter to the Internet.

Hello to all! It's been another eventful year at Blackrock, full of children and animals--wild and domestic--and general country hijinks.

Kristin is currently expecting the third Blackrock baby, which is--no one is surprised--a boy and due in nine days. She is remarkably unconcerned about adding yet another male to the household, figuring we might as well just throw another one into the feral pack we already have. Although she is considering building a bunkhouse out back in a few years for the boys.

A. decided this year to end the solo law practice he's been running for the past five years, instead taking a full-time, standard-hours job at a law firm in the Small City. We all miss having him home at odd times of day--especially when we run out of water and Kristin has to get the beach pump going by herself--but it seems to be working out so far.

The combination of new baby and new job resulted in the decision to sell the sheep flock. They all went to nice people, the last group of sheep--including the ram--actually going to a family in Pennsylvania with five boys, ages four months to 10 years. How appropriate. The boys decided to name the ram "Mr. T." You know Kristin approves of that.

Cubby will be five in February and continues to attend the local preschool, where he has displayed a natural aptitude for policing the other children. His favorite activities continue to be anything involving the forest, especially camping, but also accompanying A. on hunting and trapping expeditions. He can sit for an incredibly long time in the forest without talking. This is the only time he doesn't talk, as he is otherwise a frighteningly verbal child.

Charlie is now two-and-a-half and also working on his verbal skills, though he still has trouble with "r." And "c". And, uh, everything else. He has no trouble following his older brother around, however, and is generally good about taking direction from Cubby. Charlie is the forward scout in any adventure that might involve danger, real or otherwise; Cubby instructs Charlie to go ahead and scout the area and off Charlie goes. When he gives the all clear, Captain Cubby will join him. We all need a good sidekick.

Our dog Mia continues to be the perfect child-friendly dog, following Cubby and Charlie all around on their outdoor adventures and courteously standing still to act as a pull-up bar for any child that falls and needs a stationary object to haul himself up on.

We're all hale and hearty as always and very much hoping that you are the same. Happy Winter Solstice, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and all things bright and beautiful to all of you.

The Family Blackrock

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Merry Christmas to Me

Our annual village Christmas festival was this past Saturday. I had to go so I could fulfill my obligation of sitting at the preschool fundraising table, selling various crafts. Right next to the table I was (wo)manning was the church bake sale. They had the usual assortment of banana breads, cookies, pies, and . . . what's that on the end? OH MY GOD, THOSE ARE FRESH TOMATOES.

Apparently, one of their church members grows patio tomatoes on her enclosed and heated porch into the winter. They were selling pint boxes for four dollars. I got the last one.

You can keep your cookies and pies. If I can get fresh, homegrown tomatoes in December, my Christmas is going to be merry.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Continuing Comedy

So who among you wasn't convinced that our friend the flying squirrel had politely gone out the door and vacated the house for good?

Yeah, me neither.

At 8:15 last night, I was sitting on the couch talking to A. and trying to summon the energy to go to bed when I caught a flashing glimpse of a scurrying animal in the adjoining library. And then there was our little buddy, staring up at me from under a chair only about five feet away.

"Dammit," I said. "There's that squirrel again. It's looking at me."

A. got up to herd it into the dining room and hopefully out the door--again--but instead it ran into the downstairs bedroom.

At this point, the MiL reminded A. that he had a live trap for squirrels up in the attic that might be useful. So A. baited the trap with peanut butter, put it in the bedroom, and shut the door. He also carefully placed a small bowl of water in the room, thinking the squirrel would surely be thirsty after its adventures.

A. apparently harbors a soft spot for flying squirrels. He informed me that some people keep them as pets, getting them as babies and wearing them in special little bonding pouches to establish a relationship. I just had to look that up, and was reassured to see that flying squirrels are indeed considered a most gentle rodent and very good pets if properly cared for early on.

Still, when I came down this morning and found this in the trap, I was not tempted to try to carry it around in a pouch next to my heart in hopes of establishing a relationship.

Sorry, little dude; I am not the rodent bonding sort.

But my new knowledge of the cuddliness of flying squirrels enabled me to carry the trap outside and open it to let the squirrel out without fear that it would fly out and attach itself to my face, which, you may remember, is a persistent fear I have about most wild animals.

Yes, I'm aware this is an unlikely scenario with any animal, but we all have our things.

Anyway, the squirrel has been definitely released back into the great outdoors and thus ends our time as a flying squirrel haven.

Except for the ones in the attic. Those I guess will be staying.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Morning Comedy

This morning at 6:40, the children and I were sitting on the couch reading Big Joe's Trailer Truck when Cubby all of the sudden pointed above the bay window and said, "Mommy, there's something funny up there."

Something funny, indeed. It was a flying squirrel, totally motionless on top of the curtain rod.


I briefly considered dealing with it myself so I wouldn't have to wake up A., who is pretty tired from his week in the courtroom and had been very much looking forward to sleeping in this morning. But in the end, I just couldn't face dealing with two excitable children and an excitable rodent in my living room.

So we all burst into the bedroom to wake up Daddy so he could deal with an excitable rodent in the living room. He was just about as thrilled to wake up to this news as you might imagine.

I went out to the shed and got the big fishing net. A. got dressed. The children got dressed, too. The squirrel stayed motionless on its perch. (Flying squirrels are nocturnal, so it was the lights in the living room that were keeping it so still.)

I stationed the kids on the other side of the glass french doors leading from the front hall to the living room, so they could see but be out of the way. We watched A. herd the squirrel along the curtain rod, attempting to get it to jump into the net. Instead it leaped and glided down onto the floor. A. opened the door to the dining room to let Mia in, in the hopes she would help flush it out.

However, fierce as Mia is with raccoons and rats, she seems to have only a benign interest in flying squirrels. So she was no help.

A. propped the outside door open and flushed the squirrel out from under the woodstove. It scampered in the direction of the door. He didn't actually see it run out, but he assumes it did.

He also casually mentioned that maybe it was hiding in one of the boots by the door. Great. That makes me feel better.

I gave the kids flashlights and told them to do a thorough search of the dining room for the squirrel. They didn't find it, so we'll all just hope it escaped. Or maybe it will fly out at me when I'm trying to get the kids dressed to go outside.

It's the uncertainty that makes life so exciting, right? Right.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Perry Mason by Day, Daniel Boone by Night

I suppose it's true that most people lead dual lives. Anyone who works outside the house has one persona at work and another in his or her personal life. This is probably not as pronounced in most people, however, as it is in A.

A. is a lawyer, of the criminal variety. (Meaning he defends criminals in court, not that he is a criminal.) He's one of the few lawyers who actually does appear in court on a (very) regular basis, and one of the even fewer who occasionally does jury trials.

He is currently in the middle of a somewhat contentious jury trial, which means he's spending his days choosing a jury, delivering opening statements, cross-examining state witnesses, conferring with the judge in chambers, and all that other stuff that you might see in the popular courtroom dramas of Hollywood.

Then he comes home and changes into his sweatpants to sit by his woodstove and drink his homemade hard cider.

Last night at 10:30 p.m., long after we were asleep, the MiL came upstairs in search of A. The dogs had cornered a raccoon right next to the dining room door, behind the very chair I sit in to monitor the adventurous children. The raccoon had probably been on the nearby table eating the cat food when the dogs found it.

The raccoon kept trying to get out from behind the chair to escape, but Mia wouldn't let it. She kept it there until A. arrived with his rifle and dispatched the raccoon.

This morning, he put it on top of the woodpile, where it will remain frozen until he gets a chance to skin it and scrape it in preparation for sending it away to be tanned. Then he can use it to make a new coonskin cap for Cubby, who has outgrown the one A. made for him two years ago.

And then A. put on his suit and headed into the courtroom. Clark Kent has nothing on him.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sweet Freedom

Our house is on about seven acres of land. A. doesn't think this is enough, but that's only because he is both really into grazing animals that need a lot of pasture and not into having neighbors nearby. At all.

But of course, for a person living in an apartment or a quarter-acre city lot, it sounds like an unimaginable plot of land. It's also satisfactorily large if you happen to be four or two years old.

And I just happen to have a four- and two-year-old. How handy.

Those two love nothing better than to wave goodbye to me and set off on their own for adventure. I'm not supposed to come, you see. That's what makes it fun. Off they go, Cubby leading the way and Charlie manfully struggling along behind. Usually they go into the small gully on the other side of the garden fence. There's an old piece of farm machinery there they like to climb on.

Or they go into the hollow just beyond the forsythias to hunt or trap (pretend, obviously) or just whack trees with sticks or poke sticks in holes. Or whatever it is they do. I don't really know, because I don't go. I sit in the chair outside the dining room door, from which I can hear them if they yell and track their progress if I stand up to check on them occasionally.

But I'm not with them. They can't see me or hear me. They think they're on their own*. And this is the important part.

I often think how incredibly fortunate my children are to live where they do and have the freedom to explore that they do. They certainly wouldn't have this if we lived in a city or suburb. I can't help but think that it's going to have a positive effect on their characters.

Of course, it also means that I occasionally have to trek up there to rescue Charlie from his entanglement in the barbed wire fence on the perimeter. Or to look for a boot that he has mysteriously jettisoned somewhere in favor of tromping around in one boot and one muddy sock.

But in general, they do their own thing with no interference from me. Lucky boys. And lucky me.

* Except Cubby usually calls Mia to escort them, which she is happy to do. And I am happy to let her, because at least I don't have to worry about something coming out of one of those holes they like to poke sticks into. Mia can make short work of any irritated woodchuck they might encounter.

Monday, December 1, 2014

No Greater Love Hath a Mother . . .

Than to sit on a piece of driftwood on an upstate New York beach on a gray, windy, 40-degree December day watching children play with zebra mussel shells.

I made it an hour before insisting--over loud objections--that we had to go back up to the house.

They'll thank me for my sacrifices one day.*

* No, they won't. Who ever thanks their parents for this kind of sacrifice? Come to think of it . . . thank you, Mom and Dad, for the hours you spent at pools and beaches, suffering through elementary school band recitals and interminable Little League games, and all the other things that you did only out of love for me. I get it now. And I appreciate it.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunday Serenity

There's some kind of special Advent service at the MiL's church this morning, and she arranged to have Cubby speak one of the parts. This means he gets to use the microphone. He's very excited. He's going to say, "The candle of hope."

From such humble beginnings a star is born, I'm sure.

Charlie has also been very excited, and has also been practicing saying, "The candle of hope." In his case this comes out more like, "Canda hope," but whatever. I'm sure God would get it.


The MiL couldn't handle both kids at church at once. The idea of keeping Charlie at home was too horrible to contemplate, so A. took one for the team and said he would go to church with them to wrangle Charlie.

Well. From the level of excitement this announcement generated from the children, you would think we had announced an open candy buffet.

I would've gone, but no one even invited me. Probably because they knew I didn't really want to go, anyway. So now I have some time to get some other stuff done. Stuff like laundry and going online to buy nursing tank tops.

Glamor, yes. I am all about it.

A. helped me move furniture around to set up the baby's room this morning, so once I get the diapers washed, I'll have pretty much completed my to-do-before-baby list. Good thing, because we're at T minus three weeks until baby time. Or, you know, any time before or after that, because babies come when they damn well please, but at least I have the bassinet out now. Bring on the newborn.

Thursday, November 27, 2014



Happy Thanksgiving, my lovelies. Go forth to eat, drink, and be thankful.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Monster I've Created

The other morning both Cubby and Charlie unfortunately stumbled downstairs at 5:45 a.m. I myself had just come downstairs and none of us were at our most chipper. Cubby, as is his habit, immediately requested breakfast. I couldn't face turning on the stove and cooking eggs yet, so I spread some peanut butter on rice cakes for them, poured them some milk, and braced myself on the counter to blearily drink my coffee.

Cubby ran to the table, took a look at my breakfast offering, and said, "That's not breakfast. It's not breakfast unless you cook something."

You heard it from the little emperor first: Unless it's a hot breakfast, it's no breakfast at all.*

* I must admit that I agree and a breakfast of a banana and peanut butter or cold cereal or something is not the way I prefer to start my day. But at least I cook my OWN breakfast instead of demanding labor from others first thing in the morning, CUBBY.

Monday, November 24, 2014

I Hope the Baby Likes Chili

I am now less than one month from my December 20 due date. I haven't washed the diapers, cleaned and set up the baby's room, or purchased any nursing apparel yet, but I do have two and a half gallons of venison chili in the freezer.

And the world's worst photo to prove it.

Yesterday at 10 a.m., A. retrieved the doe from the barn and got to work. He skinned, cut up, boned, chopped, and browned the entire deer (minus the backstraps and tenderloin, which we panfried for dinner). Then he chopped three pounds of onions and two entire heads of garlic. He dumped in several large cans of tomatoes, I added a large amount of chili powder, cumin, and epazote, and by 7 p.m., we had an enormous pot of chili.

So if you've ever wondered, one doe equals 2.5 gallons of chili. I'm sure that calculation will come in handy for you one day.

A. also made a couple of gallons of stock from the bones. I still have to find room in the freezer for that. And enough jar lids.

Then I need to wash diapers, clean the baby's room, and buy nursing apparel. But at least I have the chili. Priorities.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Must Be Hunting Season

Because the dogs are wandering around in their deer-offal-stuffed drunken states from the prizes they drag home from the woods and A. is announcing things like this first thing in the morning when he steps outside to get firewood:

 "I feel I should warn you there is a lung on the doorstep."

Thanks for the warning. I'll just stay inside.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Radical at Heart

A couple of weeks ago, I finally read Radical Homemakers, by Shannon Hayes. It came out about five years ago, and I have no idea why I never heard of it, because if ever there were a book that I should read, that one was it. The subtitle is "Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture."

Apparently, I'm a radical homemaker. Who knew?

Not radical in the 80's awesome sense (although that too, OBVIOUSLY), but radical in the sense of changing the world. Except it never occurred to me that disgust with consumerism and making my own sauerkraut had any larger purpose. And if I must be honest, that's not why I do things like make my own sauerkraut. Really, I'm just greedy and homemade tastes better.

But I agreed with a lot of the things in that book. And that one led me to another one entitled Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World, by Kelly Coyne and Eric Knutzen.

Again with the radical and the consumer thing.

This book is awesome because it's a book full of instructions for lots of different projects, like making your own soap. Or mustard. Or beer. Or whatever*. This is the reason I currently have a large bunch of sage suspended over the woodstove, drying so I can powder it and mix it with baking soda to brush my teeth. It will no doubt taste disgusting, but sage is apparently good for, in their words, "troubled gums," which I sometimes have, so I figured it can't hurt to try.

Sound weird to you? Then you probably shouldn't read these books. But I think you should. They might make you more radical. In a good way.

* Some of it's way too out there even for me--I don't think I'm going to be composting our, ahem, "humanure" anytime soon--but I appreciate their willingness to share it all.

Monday, November 17, 2014

We Can All Relax Now

Saturday was the first day of rifle season for deer. In other words, the pressure was on for A. to get his deer. I don't know why he feels this pressure, but he does. The family must have meat, after all. *

He got up at 4 a.m. on Saturday morning to drive 45 minutes to public lands up in the hills. Up, where it is colder. A lot colder. It was about 15 degrees, with a snow cover. He stayed out for about three hours and didn't see a single deer, returning shame-faced (and freezing) to answer in the negative when the children asked if he got anything.

After several hours of jittering around, he decided to go back out around 3 p.m. This time he just walked up back onto our neighbor's property and camped out in the gully. He returned around 5 p.m. dragging a very fat doe.

This is pretty much what he did last year, so I think he's getting the idea that if shooting a deer is the objective, there is very little reason to get up in the dark and cold and drive anywhere. Obviously the hunting is better half a mile from our house.


Charlie in particular was excited about this deer, shouting "Hooray, Daddy!" and subjecting the deer to a minute examination. I like to think I encourage scientific curiosity, but it was still pretty gross to see him poking at eyeballs and pulling on the tongue.

Also gross is how surprisingly long a deer's tongue is. Ew.

Anyway again.

So the first deer of the season is now hanging in the barn aging, to be butchered this weekend. Due to my not-very-functional hands at the moment, I will not be participating in the butchering this year. I suggested to A. that he just cut the whole thing up into stew meat and turn it all into a gigantic batch of chili to be frozen.

Is this not how most people go about preparing freezer meals for after the baby is born?

A. has two more tags, meaning he can still take one more doe and a buck. So we could end up with the world's largest supply of chili in our freezer. Works for me.

* Joke. We still have quite a bit of our half cow in the freezer, so I think anemia will be held at bay for awhile yet.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Notes from the First Day of Winter

What's that? The calendar says it's still fall? Yeah, well, tell the calendar to take a look out my window and shut up. Snow has been falling since about 9 a.m. It didn't start sticking until about an hour ago, though.

Before it started to stick, I loaded the children up in the van to go out to the local orchard to pick up A.'s buckets of apple cider. In the past, we've pressed our own cider that A. has subsequently turned into many gallons of hard cider. But there were no excess apples this year, so A. decided to just buy the sweet cider. He made me promise that I wouldn't lift the five-gallon buckets into the van myself*, lest I damage myself or the other human currently residing in my body. So I had the lady at the orchard carry the buckets to the van for me.

I also bought two ten-pound bags of apples. Cubby carried one. Charlie carried the other. I carried nothing.

Put 'em to work young, I say.

Tonight is the St. Martin's Day celebration at Cubby's preschool. I once again volunteered to bring meat--we eat a lot of meat, so I figured I might as well supply it--and once again, I happened to choose a roast that was all tied up with string. A beef roast this time, which I browned, stuck in a Dutch oven with onions, and left in the oven all day.

Way easier than baking something or peeling potatoes or whatever.

Around 4 p.m., I pulled the meat apart in lieu of slicing, since it had been in the oven so long it was falling apart anyway, doused it in storebought barbecue sauce and dumped it all back into the Dutch oven.

My name is Kristin, and I am a lazy potluck contributor.

But at least I managed to get the string off this time. I'm sure that will be appreciated.

* I didn't mention the fact that Charlie, who I must still lift and carry regularly, weighs a lot more than five gallons of cider. I'm okay with being weak if I can get away with it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A.P.D.--The Bedtime Edition

Before we begin with today's frivolity, please go here to read the first post I ever did for Veterans Day and take a moment to remember what today is. 

And now, on with the show!

Have you seen this map of average bedtimes by county in the United States? It's fascinating. It is also, I suspect, skewed by the fact that the responses came from people wearing some super-techie activity tracker device that I had never heard of. This is pure conjecture, of course, but I would bet that people who are more into gadgets and technology stay up later.

But let's carry on with this discussion anyway, because I found the results shocking.

In case you don't want to read the whole thing (though you should), the most notable point is that the earliest average bedtime in the United States is 10:31 p.m. That's on Maui. Not that it makes a difference where it is, the point is that this is the earliest average.

Most other places are around 11:30 p.m. or midnight. My own county apparently averages 11:23 p.m.

I know this is not unusual. We don't personally know any adults here--our age or otherwise--who go to bed before 10 p.m. 

Except us.

A. and I are in bed every night by 9 p.m. Okay, maybe sometimes 9:15, but those are our late nights. Many nights, we're in bed before nine. We can't even blame it on the exhausting little humans who suck our energy, either, because we went to bed at nine before we had kids. I usually went to bed around nine when I was in college for God's sake.

According to this map, this makes us very, very weird.

But, as I mentioned, I have my doubts about the true representativeness of these numbers. So let me put it to you, my lovelies, for a totally unscientific but no less interesting survey: What time do you usually go to bed?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Cubby Shreds

This morning's filthy weather--the dreaded "wintry mix," which is pretty much the worst kind of winter weather--kept us inside all morning. This is always, always a nightmare with my two small mountain men. They do not relish indoor play. It turns them into the caged feral animals they are.

By 9:30 a.m., Cubby was acting and sounding exactly like Taz from Looney Tunes (not kidding--he's never seen Taz, but the resemblance is uncanny), and I realized drastic measures were in order.

So I broke out the 30-Day Shred DVD.

In my current semi-crippled state, I was not doing any shredding of my own, but Cubby was happy to jump around and do push-ups and windmill arms and whatever else. For about ten minutes, anyway. It was a short workout, but he did a lot of jumping. The entertainment value of a four-year-old attempting the coordinated movement of a jumping jack is significant.

Charlie assured me he was a big boy and could do jumping jacks, too. This was also amusing, though he didn't even attempt the arm movements.

That look of glee on Charlie's face was strangely absent from my own face when I was doing this workout myself.

They even found their own handweights.

Maybe Jillian Michaels wouldn't recommend using an electric screwdriver and a lantern flashlight, but whatever. Sometimes we have to make do.

I don't think they're going to do the whole thirty days, but at least it got us through ten minutes of this interminable day. I'll take it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Honest Truth . . . That You Will Never Hear

In response to the "How are you feeling?" question directed at an obviously pregnant woman, the pregnant woman always says "Fine," or "Good."

That's a lie*.

The truth is ugly. The truth is little sleep and exhaustion and carpal tunnel in the hands and plantar fasciitis in the feet and back pain and aches in all the muscles and panting from walking upstairs and feelings of suffocation when forced to bend over.

But who wants to hear that? No one. And who wants to say it? Not me.

So how am I feeling? Fine. Thanks for asking.

* So is the conventional response of, "Well, you look great!" but the social niceties must be observed.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pathetic Even for Me

I have admitted more than once that holidays aren't really my thing. I seem to do better with the day-to-day than with the special occasion stuff. But this Halloween might have been a new low even for me.

Wednesday was the day that Cubby went trick-or-treating with his preschool at the village businesses. Also the day that the library story hour was dedicated to Halloween. So that was costume day for us.

Cubby decided about three days before Halloween that he wanted to be an astronaut. Very luckily, the astronaut suit from last year that my mom randomly sent still fit him. Cool. Cubby's done.

Charlie . . . well. My plan was to put overalls on him, plus our explorer's helmet, plaid shirt, rubber boots, and gold panning pan to sort of look like a forty-niner. Charlie wouldn't wear the overalls (he's had an aversion to them pretty much from birth that I guess has not abated). The helmet has gotten cracked and wouldn't stay on. He didn't want to hold the pan. So he was dressed in jeans, a plaid shirt, and rubber boots.

So Charlie was . . . Charlie for Halloween. Whatever.

I also forgot the camera that day, so there are no pictures.

Also also that day, Cubby brought me one of the volunteer pumpkins from the garden and asked me to make a jack-o'-lantern. Turns out, those volunteers had such a rock-hard skin, there was no way a knife could cut it. And that's a no on the jack-o'-lantern.

You can see that pretty much everything I touched turned to fail for this Halloween.

However. Thursday when Charlie and I went to the Mennonite farm to buy eggs, I also found they were selling pumpkins. So for two bucks I got a jack-o'-lantern pumpkin that we carved yesterday.

I even got a picture of the children cleaning out the interior. Thrilling.

And then this morning Cubby decided to put his suit back on to play astronaut, so I got a day-after-Halloween costume photo.

Cubby as astronaut and Charlie as . . . Charlie. Doing this thing he does when I ask him to smile for a picture.

Maybe I'll do better next year. But I wouldn't bet on it.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I Never Would Have Made It To Oregon

I recently finished a very interesting book called Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey, by Lillian Schlissel. It's a somewhat scholarly book based on--you may have guessed this--the many diaries kept by women who were on their way west in wagons.

It's a really good book, especially if, like me, you've always been fascinated by pioneers, but what really struck me was how many of the women on these awful journeys were pregnant and/or had very young children. And what's even more amazing in the case of the pregnant women is that they didn't even mention it in their diaries--their personal diaries!--until they delivered the babies. In one case, the woman had something like seven children and delivered her eighth three days after arriving at their stopping place. After a particularly grueling end of the journey that required her to walk up a slippery, wet mountain trail while carrying her toddler.

Also amazing is that the diaries aren't continuous bitch-fests. You know mine would have been. Not whiners, those women.

So I shall restrain myself from whining too much about all the frantic Halloween activity yesterday morning with Cubby and Charlie and story hours and trick-or-treating and preschool parties and OH MY GOD so much sugar. I just won't. Because I'm pretty sure the covered-wagon women wouldn't have much sympathy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Good Thing I Got All That Churchin'

I am, like so many others, a lapsed Catholic. But before I lapsed, I was really Catholic. Youth groups, retreat leader, religious education instructor, all that good stuff. None of that now, however, which means that Cubby's religious education has come solely from the MiL and the times he deigns to go to church with her.

But it sure is handy I have that background, otherwise I would have had a hard time figuring this one out:

Cubby: Mom! Charlie can say, "Glory to goddis."

Me: What?

Cubby: Glory to goddis!

Charlie: Gory to godith!

Me: Wait, what? (Totally sounded like " blahblah goddess," but I was pretty sure that's one of the few words Cubby doesn't know.)


Me: Ohhhhh, glory to God in the highest?

Cubby: Yes!

Me: Yeah, that's actually glory. to. God. in. the. highest. "Highest" like high up there.

Cubby: Oh.

Me: And peace to His people on Earth.

Cubby: Yeah.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Joy in a Cup

Bedtimes with Charlie have taken a turn for the worse in the past few days. I don't know why--except just the unpredictability and pure cussedness that is two years old--but he's been shrieking and writhing on the floor for 45 minutes before finally getting into bed and going to sleep. This means some very unpleasant evenings for me lately, obviously.

Tonight he blessedly decided to forgo the shrieking fit (despite zero changes to the routine we always follow that has apparently been totally unacceptable for the past few days but is all of the sudden A-OK again), instead just flipping around in his bed and talking to himself. For an hour. While I sat there on a chair in his room, waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting.

By the time he finally fell asleep and I escaped his room at 8:30 p.m., I was feeling distinctly grumpy. Also hungry, and then even more grumpy when I remembered we ate the last of the peanut butter earlier today so my planned peanut butter on a rice cake was a no go.

The MiL sometimes has random little jars of crunchy peanut butter for baking on the top shelf of one of the cabinets, though, so I started foraging up there in the hopes of finding one of those. But I found something much, much better: pudding cups.

Oh yes. Pudding cups. Do surprises get any happier than that?

They were left over from the time last spring when Cubby was so sick he wouldn't eat anything. I bought him some chocolate pudding cups figuring that those would be a surefire way to get him to ingest some calories. Turned out he was sick enough that he didn't even eat those. I think he ate half of one. So there were still three up there.

I ate all three. Oh yes, I did. And it was glorious.

Nothing can redeem a day better than an unexpected pudding cup. Unless it's three unexpected pudding cups.

Friday, October 24, 2014

It's That Time of Year Again

Crappy costume time! Hooray! Well, crappy if you're my kids, because they were unfortunate enough to be saddled with a non-crafty mother who doesn't care about them or holidays.

Okay, maybe just the non-crafty part. Also cheap, because I don't want to spend fifty dollars on costumes every year that are worn for two hours.

Upon inquiry, Cubby has consistently announced his intention of dressing as a carpenter for Halloween. Carpenter! I can do that! Jeans and flannel shirt in his drawer, pencil behind his ear, one of Daddy's tool belts (perhaps slightly modified to actually stay on his not-so-manly hips) filled with some of our various fake tools . . . done! (Though he has told me he wants to bring real nails and a real hammer in the tool belt. We may have a little bit of a disagreement on this.)

But then yesterday he said he wanted to be an astronaut. Oh. Well. We do still have the astronaut suit from last year. Maybe it will fit him. I guess we'll see what happens on Wednesday morning next week*.

Charlie hasn't expressed an opinion, so I dug out some overalls for him and will make something up from there. We have this explorer's helmet thing--you know the kind, like a hard hat with a light on the front--and I thought about getting him nicely blackened and calling him a coal miner. But then I'd probably be scrubbing the blacking agent from every surface in my house.

My inspiration came in the form of the gold panning, uh, pans, that A. ordered for himself and the children.

Yes, the gold rush has started at Blackrock. Not that they're going to find gold nuggets in the gully, but A. thought it would be a fun activity. Too bad he ordered them right as the water temperature started plunging in the fall.


I figure I can use the overalls and the helmet thing, plus his rubber boots, have him hold the smaller pan, and call him a forty-niner. Not exactly an obvious costume, and I'm sure I'll have to explain it to everyone who sees him, but whatever.

And that's it. That's all I got. Sorry, kids. Another year of crappy costumes courtesy of Mom.

* His preschool is going trick-or-treating at the village businesses again. This is the only trick-or-treating Cubby is aware of, since obviously no one is trekking up our dark-ass driveway in the middle of nowhere on actual Halloween. I suspect this is the last year Cubby will remain ignorant of door-to-door candy collection, however. I've put off the candy trudging as long as I can, I suppose. Next year I'll have to suck it up.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Let the Burning Begin . . . If I'm Lucky

Yesterday marked the beginning of leaf raking and, therefore, burning. We can burn the leaves in our driveway, see, because we live in an area zoned agricultural. This basically means, "Do what you want on your land and your neighbors will have to deal with it."

Luckily, we don't have close neighbors, and the ones we do have are used to our woodchuck ways.


I meant to just rake the leaves off the patio on the south side so they wouldn't turn into a slippery walking hazard during the forecasted five days of rain we have coming up. But then I had to rake the patio leaves onto the lawn, so I thought I might as well rake the leaves on the lawn into the driveway. And then, since it was relatively dry and sunny, I thought I might as well burn the two resulting piles right away. 

I am always surprised, however, by how damn hard it is to get the leaves to light. 

I KNOW. They're dead leaves! Isn't that the very definition of a fire hazard?

Not in upstate New York. It's wet here. Even if it's not actively raining or snowing, there is always a heavy dew on the ground in the morning. The leaves are always damp. They are always hard to get going with matches. In very wet falls, I have resorted to using a little old motor oil or gas to get the piles started. Yesterday it took me about six matches per pile before they got going.

At least the risk of accidental fires is low.

The children, of course, love leaf burning time*. Not only are there nice big piles of leaves to leap around in, but the lighting of the leaves means they can play firemen.

What's going on back there with Cubby and Charlie?

Cubby is helping Charlie put on his fireman's mask to keep out the smoke. Obviously.

Luckily for me, we were out of water at this particular moment, which made it pretty easy to stop a determined Fireman Cubby from bringing over the hose to put out the fire.

I say "luckily," although my pregnant back did not think I was so lucky when I was hauling the five-gallon gas can down to the beach to start the water pump. Then coming back up to get a screwdriver to fix the pump before actually starting it. With both children in tow.

But that's a story for another day.

* I'm sure someone out there is thinking it's irresponsible to burn leaves right out there in the open with small children running around. All I can say to that is that these particular children are well-schooled in the facts of fire, have been around it all their lives, and know to treat it with respect. That said, I don't leave them unsupervised outside while the leaves are burning. End disclaimer.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Woodchuck Weekends for Kids

One of the fun things about having children is sharing things with them that are special to the parents. I really loved reading the Little House books with Cubby, for instance. I'm delighted that one of Cubby and Charlie's favorite movies to watch is A Claymation Christmas Celebration, which was a cherished part of my own childhood. A. was super-excited to take both kids to the scrap yard on Saturday.

We have different interests, obviously.

A. was also excited to go the scrap yard himself, because it's been a really long time since he's gone and the man does love his scrapping. There is something fun about delivering a load of nasty, rusty old metal and getting paid actual money for it, I must admit, though I haven't missed that particular form of entertainment as much as A. has.

But now that A. bought a big utility trailer to haul behind the Subaru--in lieu of replacing Big Red with another decrepit pick-up truck--he's back in the scrapping business. And if you think that A. was going to go to the scrap yard without those two small boys who mimic every move he makes, well . . . you think wrong.

So on Saturday morning as soon as it got light*, we all headed outside in the rain to gather rusty metal. Cubby and Charlie helped, depositing smaller pieces of pipe and fencing into the trailer with all the seriousness of real workers. Their favorite part was watching A. take a sledgehammer to an old iron bathtub he had used as a sheep trough. The resulting pieces were loaded into the trailer and off we went to the scrap yard.

Cubby wanted to play among the metal at the yard, an idea which was promptly negated by both A. and I. Scrap yards are not child-safe zones, as you might imagine. Cubby and Charlie did get to go into the building to get the money, though, and to admire the display of various pieces of metal brought to the scrap yard but deemed nice enough for display by the yard's owners. Their favorite was the old hand pump that had been rigged up with a fountain and had tiny goldfish swimming around in the attached bowl.

Who needs a science museum when you can go to the scrap yard?

Then we left to spend some of our lucre at the gas station. Because all the best treats come from the gas station, obviously. Cubby's absolute favorite gas station treat is a Snicker's ice cream bar. So we all sat in the little dining area of this very rural gas station, eating Snicker's ice cream bars at 10 a.m. and watching the parade of pick-up trucks outside.

Although the children could have stayed there for an hour watching trucks, we did get back in the car in fairly short order and headed home.

And that, my lovelies, is how you entertain two small woodchucks on a rainy Saturday morning.

* Which is now after 7 a.m., so this is not so dramatic as it might be.

Friday, October 17, 2014


I totally caved and bought a bag of Reese's Pieces at the grocery store yesterday. This is pretty much my favorite candy in all of the universe and that means that I can't be trusted to eat a reasonable amount.

There's, uh, not a lot of the bag left now. But there's still some. 

Now, when I have a treat that I do not want to share with Cubby--who has unfortunately inherited his mother's love for all sweet things--I kind of hide it in this basket on the baker's rack in the breakfast room. The basket is open and all, but it's high enough up that Cubby can't see in there.

A. can, though. While foraging after dinner last night, he discovered my secret candy bag. He ate some, but it's okay (I guess), because unlike me, he has some control and didn't eat very much.

He did, however, put the bag back on the baker's rack on the shelf. Not in the basket. So it was in plain view of Cubby, whose eagle eye landed on it during lunch today. I was on the opposite side of the table, so I didn't know he could see it until he got a big smile on his face and said, "I know what we're going to have for dessert."

I told him we didn't eat dessert after lunch. He assured me that he knew that, but that he could see what would be for dessert after dinner. "Oh yeah?" says I. "Yeah," he says. "Candy. LOOK!"

Dramatic pointing to the bag of Reese's Pieces on the baker's rack.

He asked me where that candy came from. I said I bought it at the store yesterday. He asked who I bought it for. I said--truthfully--that I bought it for me. At which point he informed me very earnestly that "Best friends share. So you should share, Mommy."

So now I have to. Oh well. I can't say I haven't already eaten my share. Kept on the straight and narrow by my four-year-old.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

By Popular Demand

Wow, a whole three of you are consumed with curiosity about how Charlie did on the camping trip, huh? Okay.

In the words of A., "He was a manly infant." Though I'm sure Charlie would object to the "infant" designation.

Charlie hung right in there with the bigger boys the whole time, going on nighttime flashlight hikes and everything. They all stayed up until 10 p.m., and then they went to bed. If not to sleep, exactly.

Charlie was, of course, up and down all night long. He does this at home, too, sometimes, but I imagine it was a lot worse being in a confined space with him. He talked to A. all night, spent some time climbing on Cubby's (amazingly still sleeping) face, insisted it was time to get up at 3 a.m., and finally drove everyone out of the tent at 5 a.m.

They sat around the fire until it got light an hour and a half later, had some breakfast, and then A. hauled Charlie home while Jodi took the older kids on another hike.

Charlie was delivered to me at 7:30 a.m. dirty, cold, and completely exhausted. He demanded hot tea and then had a bath. He was in very good spirits. For awhile.

Of course, his lack of sleep and excess of stimulation did catch up to him and the rest of the day was essentially the fallout in the form of numerous fits. He wasn't quite right again until after a nice sound sleep all night on Sunday. But I'm sure he's ready to go back to the woods already.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Keeping Me Guessing

The weather for this weekend was forecast to be clear and very nice. So A. and his friend Jodi decided to take advantage of probably the last kid-appropriate weekend for camping, before it gets too cold. They were planning on just taking the older boys: Cubby, and Jodi's oldest, who is seven.

But A. couldn't leave Charlie behind. So he suggested to Jodi that they camp in the gully just about a half mile up from our house. That way, A. could bring Charlie home at bedtime, as has been his habit in the past. He also suggested that Jodi bring his younger son--who is four--with the same departure time in mind.

So yesterday around 4:30 p.m., A.--loaded down like a sherpa with Charlie in the pack and bags in either hand--headed out with Cubby and Charlie to set up camp. Jodi and his two boys arrived about an hour later and joined them. Jodi told me his younger son was going to stay up there.

At six o'clock, I did the dishes, figuring I'd better get them done before A. arrived home with Charlie in an hour or so.

At seven o'clock, it was almost totally dark and I expected A. and Charlie to show up at any minute. So I puttered around picking up random things downstairs and putting them away. (How does a hatchet end up in my dining room and a spatula in my living room? My husband and sons, respectively.)

At eight o'clock, it had been dark for some time and I was beginning to suspect that Charlie had refused to leave the party in the woods. But I waited up reading until about 8:30, by which point I was falling asleep in my chair (rough night the night before) and decided to go to bed. I fully expected that as soon as I got settled in my bed, A. would show up with a very cold and disgruntled Charlie.

He never did. It is currently 6 a.m., so it appears that Charlie has had his first overnight camping trip.

Maybe he just decided he was a winter camping kind of guy. I heard the furnace come on for the first time this year at 4:30 this morning, so you know it's not exactly tropical out in those woods. Especially down by the creek where they're camping. When I checked the weather station at 5 a.m., it read 37 degrees. Better them than me.

It's still dark, but I bet not long after first light, six very cold men--two big and four little--will be showing up at our door. And I know one of them is going to be extremely pleased with himself.

Big boy, indeed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

In Support of the Family Dinner

I'm sure you've all read about the various positive effects of sitting down to dinner as a family, right? Smarter kids! Better-behaved kids! Non-stoned kids!

Seriously. I heard a radio commercial awhile ago where they got some college student to talk about how sitting down to eat with his family when he was younger meant that he didn't drink as much as his fellow students.

Sure, kid.


I myself am a big advocate of sitting down as a family, but for one simple reason: It's the only way to keep my sons from behaving like complete beasts.

On a normal night, all three adults and the two children sit down around 6 p.m. and eat dinner. Mostly the adults talk, with many interruptions by loquacious Cubby and occasional random and semi-intelligible comments from Charlie. The adults eat. The children eat. I do my fair share of nagging, but it's much, much less than when I am forced to eat with the children by myself.

God help me.

On the nights when the MiL has a meeting or whatever and A. has night court, the children sit down with me and proceed to engage in their own form of dinner conversation. This is never very sophisticated. Tonight's conversation included the endless repetition of the "button" game, during which one child says "Daddy button" or "Mommy button" or whoever button and the other one repeats it and laughs hysterically.

I don't know either.

They bubble their milk. They menace with forks. They blow tunes into their penne pasta. In short, they behave abominably.

They do not do this when other adults are present, so obviously I am not the civilizing influence here. There must be more than one adult at the table; I suppose because then they have an example of how a rational, polite person behaves while eating and interacting with other people.

And this is why I will always, always champion the family dinner, as long as A. is around to eat with us. Otherwise, I may as well throw all the food into a trough and let the children dive in.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Worth Waiting For

Due to many incredibly boring computer issues, I haven't been accessing the photos on my camera. However, I finally sat down and figured out how to get the photos off my memory card and on to A.'s weird Chromebook (they don't run on Windows, so everything is very different). And what a good thing I did, because just look what I was saving for you!

This one time when I decided to get all Pinterest-y with a tea party I had with the children on a rainy and grumpy-boring morning:


Personally, I find food faces to be frightening, but I was just trying to get them to eat lunch without any drama. Actually, as I recall, what I was really trying to do was get them to come inside for lunch without any drama because we had been outside for two hours on a very damp, cold morning playing with rubber worms in the shed and I was SO OVER IT. So I lured them in with the promise of a tea party (always a popular activity around here) AND a special snack to go with their tea.

Hence, the freaky food face. They loved it, though.

They also, as always, loved their tea. Cubby has the exclusive use of an individual-sized tea pot plus a small sugar bowl and tiny cream pitcher* so he can pour and mix up his own tea.

Pretty sure the sugar bowl is the main attraction, even if it does only have about two teaspoons of sugar in it because I am a Mean Mom.

Charlie hasn't yet caught on that he doesn't get all the fun accouterments. As long as he has his delicate teacup and saucer, plus a spoon for stirring, he's cool.

He prefers the rose-patterned tea set, but will accept the butterflies if necessary.

I always laugh when I see pictures of other kids "playing" tea party. I can just imagine Cubby and Charlie's reaction to little plastic cups with no actual tea. It would not be well received.

There! Aren't you glad I finally figured out how to get some pictures on here? I know I just made your Monday. You're welcome.

* The MiL tends to collect these sorts of things, which is why we have them. They weren't purchased specifically for Cubby or anything, although he certainly considers them his personal property by now.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Let's Hear It for the Sugar Crash!

I have to go to the doctor today to get the routine blood draw to test for gestational diabetes. This involves drinking a gaggingly sweet beverage on a mostly empty stomach and then waiting an hour before they can draw blood. And then comes the sugar crash. Blinding headache, here I come!

Obviously, this is not an outing that I'm anticipating with any great pleasure. But what makes it worse is the amount of planning I had to do to even make this unwanted outing happen.

This is not a appointment to which I want to drag my two feral children. Not that I EVER want to bring them along for appointments, but an hour in a doctor's office? I may as well try to cage a wolverine. That's approximately the level of whirling energy I would be trying to contain.

My options for appointment times were very limited, so I had to take one on a Friday morning. This meant that neither the MiL nor A.* would be available to watch the children. Neither of my kids have ever had a babysitter other than those two adults. (I know--sheltered life.)

So I called my friend Alyssa and asked her if I could drop off my two children at her house at 8:15 a.m. for a few hours. Alyssa is currently eight months pregnant with HER third child (a girl, hooray!), but it's a measure of her generosity that she didn't even hesitate at the prospect of wrangling four boys ages 2, 3, 4, and 7 for an entire morning.

Needless to say, I owe her big time.

And just to complicate matters, I arranged to bring my minivan in to the mechanic today to finish some work begun last week, totally forgetting this appointment I already had. So now the whole family is going to load up in vehicles at 8 this morning. We'll go to the mechanic to drop off my van on the way to Alyssa's. A. and I will drop the children off for their playdate (I'm calling it this to make it more exciting for them so it won't be so much like "Mommy is abandoning you," and more like, "Fun times with friends!"), then drive to the Small City and drop A. off at work. I'll go the doctor, then go get the children, then go home, and then we'll go back to the Small City this evening to pick A. up.

I'm tired already just thinking about it.

* A. took a new job at a law firm in the Small City, so his work hours have gotten much less flexible.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Ugly Shoes

Sometime in the very early part of this pregnancy, my left foot got all jacked up. Specifically, the bottom heel of my left foot. At first I thought I had just pulled a muscle and I figured I'd just try to keep off my feet as much as I could for awhile (HAHAHAHA) until it healed itself.


Then it was summer and I thought maybe my sandals were making my feet hurt and if I spent a few days wearing my running shoes, my foot would heal itself.

Nope again.

Though there was no denying the fact that the days I tried to wear sandals were the days the pain went all the way from my heal up my leg and into my back, rendering me more or less crippled. And on the days when I wore my running shoes, while not pain-free for my foot, I could at least walk without limping.

This is why I now wear my running shoes every day, all day. And I HATE IT. Because running shoes are just . . . ugly.

Unless I'm actually running or exercising (which I am not now, ever), wearing these shoes just makes me feel sloppy. And although I am the last person to offer myself as a sacrifice on the alter of fashion, I also don't like looking sloppy. So every day I schlep through the day in my maternity jeans and running shoes, feeling like a caricature of a frumpy mom.

But since the alternative is not being able to schlep at all, I wear the damn shoes. And cross my fingers, toes, and eyes that whatever this foot issue is, it will disappear after this baby is born so I can once again wear some non-sporty shoe.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Take Two

According to my archives--the only way I can ever pinpoint exact dates for anything anymore, and that right there is reason enough to keep up with this parade of drivel--it's been almost exactly three months since A. attempted camping with both Charlie and Cubby. You may recall that it didn't really work out.

But now Charlie is a whole three months older and more mature. He is, as he will remind anyone who forgets, a big boy. Plus, he's now used to sleeping (more or less . . .) in the same space as his brother.

So A. is trying again. At four o'clock this afternoon, he loaded all the camping stuff plus both boys into the wagon pulled behind the lawn tractor and drove up into the pine plantation on our (very accommodating) neighbor's property.

I think Charlie may actually make it through till morning this time, although I wouldn't bet the farm or anything on it.

As for me, I've already scrubbed the grout in the shower, had a nice phone conversation with my mom, and eaten my dinner. Further excitement will probably include some ice cream and maybe, if I'm feeling really wild, a movie.

Or maybe I'll just go to bed at 8 o'clock and actually get a full night's sleep for the first time in over a week.

Check back tomorrow for all the exciting details. You know you want to.

Update: Yeah, never mind. The lawn tractor came chugging back to the house at 6:45 this evening towing two very dirty boys. As soon as the sun started to set, Charlie had been very clear that he was ready to go home. So A. brought him home and then walked back to the campsite with Cubby. Charlie was very pleased by his forest adventure and in quite a good mood. He was also totally wound up and not so much down with the idea of "bedtime."

Oh well. At least I got a few hours to myself.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


So, you ask (well, one of you asked, and I'm sure my mother wants to know), how is it going with the two feral boys in one sleeping cave? Funny stories there. Though they didn't seem all that funny at the time.

On the first try at putting Charlie down for a nap in the new room, it took me over an hour to get him to sleep. In the accompanying screaming and thrashing, he smashed into my mouth with the top of his head and slightly loosened one of my front teeth.

Off to a rousing start! (The tooth is fine now; no permanent damage.)

That night he didn't go to sleep until nine o'clock, which is well over an hour after his usual bedtime. Cubby tried very hard to be helpful, even telling Charlie a bedtime story involving a bear trying to steal honey from some bees and covering himself in old rubber tires so he wouldn't get stung. The bear got the honey and then went for a walk in the woods, during which there was a thunderstorm, but those handy rubber tires kept him safe from the lightning.

It was a really great story. Almost worth the other 74 minutes I spent trying to get them both asleep.

Charlie woke up a couple of times that night, as well as too early the next morning, which in turn woke Cubby up, which meant some really cranky children (and mother) the next day.

The next day the before-nap hysteria lasted 45 minutes. Progress! Of a sort. That night was another nine o'clock finish. This might have been my lowest emotional point in the whole process, as I imagined never getting an evening to myself again and instead listening to screaming and dealing with bed-escaping children for hours every day.

But then on Monday, Charlie went down for his nap with no screaming. Just like that. I called A. at work to share the miraculous good news.

Bedtimes still require that I literally sit between them--there's a chair between their beds--to keep them from talking and keeping each other awake for an hour until hysteria sets in, but they're both going to sleep by around 8 p.m. Charlie still wakes up on occasion at awful times like 2 a.m. or 4:30 a.m. and I have to get him back to sleep, but that's just Charlie, not the room.

So, in sum, we're not really where I'd like to be yet (that is, to the point where I put them in their beds, sing their lullaby, close the door, and walk away), but it's better. Bearable. And I haven't sustained any more physical injuries. Success!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hooray for the Autumnal Equinox!

What, you're not excited? Well, get excited, because Cubby sure is.

Do not ask me why the First Day of Fall has assumed such importance to him, but it has. And it assumed some importance for me, too, since I've been getting kind of tired of being corrected anytime I would make some statement about it feeling like fall or being fall. EVERY TIME, Cubby would jump in to remind me that it's not fall yet, Mom, the calendar doesn't say it is. This, from a child who can't read.

Pedantic? My son? I can't imagine where he got that.

I must admit that there is something sort of satisfying about a day in which the hours of light and the hours of darkness are equal. It's as if the universe is in balance or something.

Or something.

Anyway. Happy fall, my lovelies!