Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Personality Clash


As a compulsively punctual person, I think it's clear that I'm going to have to have a serious talk with this little lady baby whenever she finally makes her appearance. Two days past her expected arrival already? That's just not going to be acceptable in our family*.

Plus, I would really like to be able to bend over to tie my shoes without a feeling of imminent suffocation.

And that's our grumpy update for the day. Carry on.

* My mother's sister, who is Very Southern, remarked that the baby is just arriving fashionably late. I am, lamentably, far too much of a Yankee to be so comfortable with the idea of tardiness being the way to make a good entrance. Especially for overdue babies. But I thought that was a funny comment anyway.

Monday, October 16, 2017

On This Day in 2017 . . .


We've finished up the absurd quantity of cheese from last month, which means those seventeen pounds didn't even last quite one month. In fact, the mozzarella was finished last week and A. already bought more of that. Now he has to go back for another insane cheddar brick.

At least we won't be deficient in calcium.

Also, today is my official due date, which doesn't seem to be impressing this baby at all. I'm going to the midwife this morning, so maybe something dramatic and exciting--you know, like birth--might happen today. Or maybe we'll all just sit around waiting some more, with everyone eyeing me like a ticking time bomb and the kids saying, "But I thought the baby was supposed to come TODAY."

Probably that.

Good times all around.

Friday, October 13, 2017

A Cultural Exchange Courtesy of Craigslist


A. decided last week to list his remaining three ram lambs for sale on Craigslist, either for butchering or breeding. One less thing--or rather, three less things--to worry about with a baby due any day. Plus, we thought it would be nice to get some cash for some of the lambs and then buy a half of a cow for some variety from lamb meat.

On the very same day he got sick of dealing with the escaping lamb and slaughtered it, he got a call about the Craigslist ad. It was a man from Vermont who didn't speak particularly good English, but managed to get across that yes, he wanted to buy the lambs, and he wanted to slaughter them himself.

A. figured he was Muslim and wanted to follow the Islamic law of halal by making sure they were properly slaughtered. So he arranged for the man and his friend to come this morning to slaughter the lambs here.

They rolled up in a maroon Toyota Scion at 11:30, exchanged their bright white sneakers for slightly older white sneakers, pulled some beat-up track pants over their jeans, and pulled out their fillet knives. Approximately three minutes later, the lambs were on the ground and kicking their last.

These were obviously some men who have slaughtered sheep before.

A. then helped them bring the lambs to the back of the house where he hangs them to work on skinning and gutting and so forth. And then A. got an education in how a Bosnian butchers a sheep.

Because it turns out that the men were from Bosnia, and they had a very particular method of butchering. The one guy who seemed to be the more professional butcher told A. he could start skinning one, but when he saw how A. did it, he jumped in and took over. And then proceeded to cut the hide off so cleanly the resulting hide was perfectly smooth on the skin side.

They kept the head, tail, and everything else on and just skinned the whole thing. After the skinning, they removed the innards in one go and separated out the lungs, heart, and liver in one big chunk for separate cooking.

The man who was doing less of the work told me these lambs were for a wedding, and showed me on his smart phone a video of how they cook them. The entire lamb is put on a wooden pole, which sticks out through the mouth and the rear, and then the pole is attached to an electric rotisserie device--brought, apparently, from Bosnia--which is in turn hooked up to a generator so the animal continues to turn without any further labor from the cooks.

The same guy handed a spectating Jack twenty dollars and told him to buy some chocolate*.

The men worked for almost exactly two hours, finishing up by carefully wrapping the lambs up in plastic bags, along with the boxes of the innards they wanted to take with them.

Then they paid A., pressed an apple into Jack's hands, and drove back to Vermont.

They were very nice men, and it was extremely educational for A. to see how an expert dresses out a lamb. Plus, now we have cash in hand and an extra apple in exchange for two lambs we don't have to butcher ourselves.

Works for me.

* I took the twenty dollars for safekeeping and future chocolate buying, as I don't think Jack is getting to the store anytime soon.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Of Cookies and Carcasses


Two important food-related events yesterday: I finally made a double batch of chocolate chip cookies, and A. slaughtered another lamb.

The reason I made the cookies is because Charlie happened to be assigned the class Halloween party as his turn to bring in a treat, and I really don't think I'm going to be up to treat-making at the end of this month. So I decided to make a bunch of cookies and freeze half of them so I can just pull them out of the freezer and send them in on October 31*.

They're not as fun as, like, cupcakes decorated to look like ghosts or something, but they're better than buying a box of Little Debbie snack cakes, right? And anyway, the odds of me making intricately decorated ghost cupcakes are . . . well, it's not going to happen even when I don't have a newborn baby.

And by the way, baking chocolate chip cookies when on a restricted diet due to gestational diabetes is no fun at all. All that delicious cookie dough . . .

Anyway.

A. slaughtered the lamb because it kept escaping the pen, and after the fourth time it got out yesterday morning, he decided the forecast was favorable enough to hang meat. And just like that, that lamb was done for.

You did it to yourself, lamb.

So my mom was going down the stairs yesterday with Jack to play in the playroom and was treated to the sight of A. skinning the hanging sheep just outside the downstairs door. We may not live at Blackrock anymore, but we still know how to roll out the welcome mat for guests.

I suspect testicle parmigiana might be on the menu tonight. I'd rather eat the cookies, but I suppose I'll have to content myself with roasted vegetables. Whee.

* The first person to so much as whisper the word "nesting" gets a chocolate chip up the nose.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Bonding Moments


Although there isn't much about being hugely and unmistakably pregnant that I enjoy, one thing I do find endlessly amusing is the comments it inspires in other people.

Now that it's obvious I'm pregnant and not just hopelessly addicted to doughnuts (how I wish . . .), total strangers ask me when I'm due and then invariably tell me how many children they have. Usually they ask if I'm having a boy or a girl, and when I say our first girl after three boys, they are always delighted and then tell me the breakdown of the sexes among their own children.

The elderly gentleman at church on Sunday who asked me when "the blessed event" is shared that he had eight children--five girls and three boys.

One woman told me she had five boys. I told her she got me beat.

The woman at the grocery store today told me she had four girls and one boy, and the boy was the easy one: "No drama."

My favorite, however, was when the priest offered a blessing for "expectant parents," at which point I'm pretty sure the entire church was staring at us, and then a lady stopped me after church to tell me that she was glad he prayed for me because she sees us every week and I look like I could use prayers.

I was not entirely sure how to respond to that, but I thought it was very funny.

She hurried on to tell me that it's obvious I'm doing very well with our current children, but that she doesn't know how I do it. She didn't tell me if she has any children. Maybe not, which might account for her undeserved admiration.

Or maybe she had ten kids of her own and remembered what it was like to try to contain multiple small bodies for an hour while in the advanced stages of pregnancy with another. She didn't say. But I kind of wished she had.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

SuperNana


Tomorrow morning, my mother, the children's beloved Nana, will be boarding a plane and traveling from Arizona to our northern frontier. She's staying for a couple of weeks to help out during and after the birth of Baby #4.

So how did she prepare for her long and arduous journey? By competing in a triathlon today.


Game face: ON.

My dad was kind enough to send periodic photos and updates as she competed. She finished just a little while ago. The video he sent of her crossing the finish line shows Nana waving her hands in triumph as she jogs steadily across the finish line.

I'm sure that spirit and endurance can carry her through two weeks sleeping on a fold-out couch in the playroom and dealing with three insane little boys day in and day out. I think the triathlon was probably the easier of the two.

I can only hope to be as bad ass as my mom someday. It's nice to have a role model. (Though the odds of me doing a triathlon at 70 years of age--or, um, ever--are virtually non-existent, so I suppose it's a forlorn hope.)

Congratulations, Nana! See you soon! I have lots of ibuprofen on hand.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The After-school Routine


Last year when Cubby started first grade at his new school here, I found his homecoming at the end of the school day to be incredibly stressful. A. was gone a lot then--and even when he wasn't away from the house, he was still working at 3 p.m. when the bus came--so it was just me and the three children.

Charlie and Jack were excited to see Cubby and were usually a little hysterical. Cubby wanted to tell me all about his day, which was kind of hard to do with his two little brothers screaming and racing around. Then he had homework for the first time, which he was not accustomed to, needed help with, found frustrating, and was greatly complicated by the fact that his brothers were constantly bugging him, stealing his pencil, etc.

Later, he had to read a book aloud to me, which was also complicated by his small, pesky brothers and the fact that he really couldn't read very well yet and would get frustrated.

It was not a good scene.

By the time Charlie started school in January, things had somewhat calmed down. But still, their arrival home meant backpacks flung about with papers and lunch bags to be unloaded, winter clothes all over the floor, two children trying to talk over each other to tell me about their days, and a still-somewhat-hysterical Jack.

I was determined this year would be different. To that end, we began after-school training immediately upon the commencement of the school year.

Instruction #1 is to take their lunch bags out of their backpacks and put the bags in the kitchen. One or both of them usually has something left in their lunch bags, which they give to Jack. He finds this thrilling--because what's better than cheese that's been sitting in a school lunch bag all day?--and it distracts him during Instruction #2: Folders out of their backpacks to show me what's in them, thereby giving them each a turn to talk to me.

Next they have to put their folders back in their backpacks and put their backpacks on top of the book bench.

All of this still requires a lot of reminding--a.k.a., nagging--but they're mostly used to doing these things themselves by now.

Finally, Cubby does his homework. He still always wants to do it as soon as he gets home, but he no longer requires my assistance. First he does his math worksheet. I look it over and point out to him the ones he might want to, ahem, "reconsider," though he usually gets most of them right the first time.

Then he reads his assigned book. This is my favorite part, because not only can he now read on his own, he can read to his brothers.


Magic.

Of course, any day now we'll be adding a newborn baby to this mix, thereby blowing all routines to hell, but I have hope that at least some of this will stick and there will be a minimum of chaos upon the school homecoming. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Nothing To Report


I figured after that last post I shouldn't let too many days go by without a post or everyone is going to think I'm at the hospital having a baby.

I'm not.

But I did take all three ex-utero children to get a flu shot this morning. No one cried. Mostly because A. came with me and held Jack during his shot. Daddy can make anything bearable.

Right after that, we took them all to the dentist so the older two could get their regularly scheduled cleanings.

Checking off all those responsible-parent boxes, you know.

Except for the fact that the pediatrician's office has lollipops, which of course all three boys took, and I managed to convince Cubby and Charlie to hold off on theirs since, you know, they were going directly to the dentist to get their teeth cleaned, but Jack was all, "What? No. I want my lollipop NOW."*

So he was sucking on a lollipop in the dentist's office. At 9:30 in the morning.

Responsible-parent box resolutely NOT checked.

However, neither Cubby nor Charlie had any cavities or other dental concerns, so I'm gonna call it a draw.

After that, we went straight to the school to drop them off for the last few hours of their day.

In about an hour, I have to drive back to the big village (for a grand total of 100 miles of driving today--whee) for my own medical appointment: the weekly status check on the baby.

So if you don't hear from me for several days after this, perhaps I really did go to the hospital to have the baby. Or perhaps I'm just lazy and feeling too stupefied to write anything worth reading.

Like this post. But at least you know now that there's no baby yet! You're welcome.

* I hope you appreciated that one run-on sentence made up a full paragraph. It's a talent, really.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Eyes on the Prize


Okay. It's October 1. That means I am having a baby this month. Probably earlier rather than later, too.

Sounds good to me. The exciting glow of pregnancy--if such a thing exists--has now changed to "I feel fine. Thanks for asking."

Bring on the nursing and diapers and sleepless nights. In other words, bring on the baby.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Testicle Parmigiana Just Like Your Nonna Used To Make


"Wait," I can hear you saying. "Does that say testicle parmigiana? That can't be what I think it is."

Except it is. It is exactly what you're thinking it is.

Yes, it's a new delicacy from the people who brought you alarmingly animated sea creatures and beaver tacos. And it is testicle parmigiana.

I'm sure no one will be surprised that this all came about because of A. I am unlikely to invent such a dish, but A. did.

The recent stretch of cool weather meant that he could slaughter another lamb. So he did. The carcass hangs for a few days to age, but in the initial dressing of the lamb--which involves gutting, skinning, and cutting off the head--he removes the testicles and the tenderloin.

I should note at this point that we call the testicles "sweetmeats" because I hear enough giggling from my sons about male parts. I'm all for knowing what your food is and being accurate and all, but there's no need to add fuel to that particular gross fire at the dinner table.

The last couple of times he's cooked the sweetmeats--and make no mistake that it is him cooking them, not me--he's just cleaned them up*, sliced them, and fried them. They're fine this way, but he told me last time that they're so neutral in flavor that he thought they would benefit from a sauce.

So I suggested this time that maybe he could make a sauce from the sun-dried tomatoes he made last week, which turned out really well, as well as some of the chicken stock I made from the carcass of our exciting chicken, and some heavy cream. Couldn't be bad, right?

He added some garlic, too, and it was, indeed, a very good sauce. So what did he do with that very good sauce? Well, he first fried the sliced sweetmeats in olive oil, along with butterflied pieces of the tenderloin and some sliced country-style pork ribs. You know, just to make sure there was enough meat.

Then he dumped the sauce over the fried meats (without even draining off the fat first, which is classic A.).

And then, just to make sure no one could possibly go hungry, he covered the entire pan with a layer of mozzarella cheese and let that melt.

Yes. A variety of fried meats in a tomato cream sauce and melted cheese. No one could call this a light meal.

He couldn't stop saying how delicious it was. Cubby ate some of the sweetmeats. Charlie and I ate the pork. Jack mostly ate the melted cheese. Something for everyone.

But mostly for A., who was thrilled with his creation.

So there you have it. Testicle parmigiana: It's what's for dinner. But only if A. is cooking.

* You--by which I mean A.--have to remove the membranous sac around the, uh, meat part and trim off some veins and stuff. I think. I try not to look too closely.

Friday, September 29, 2017

I'm Sure This Isn't Even a Little Over the Top


Last night I was sitting around in the lull between dinner and bedtime, mentally reviewing the time and what came next in the children's inexorable easing into bed, when I realized that nobody knows their schedule like I do.

I mean, obviously. Since I created their schedule and all.

What I mean is, sometime in the next couple of weeks, either A., the MiL, or my mother will be pinch hitting for me with the three maniacs while I deal with a newborn. And it might be helpful for them to know things like when the school bus comes or when the kids start picking up for bed.

So I created the following not-at-all-crazy daily schedule cheat sheet for them:


A day in the life of a (possibly over-) regimented mom.

A. came upon me writing this schedule and immediately asked if he needed to take me to the hospital. Nope, just need to be prepared. 

It's entirely possibly none of the three caregivers will even look at this, but it made me feel better to write it anyway. And making the pregnant lady feel better is always the goal, right? Right.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Excitement of Poultry


Yesterday A. and Jack accompanied me to the Big Village for a status check on the baby (status: still there and healthy, still hanging out until further notice) and we happened to pass the farmers market. I've never been to this farmers market, so we decided to stop.

I'm so glad we did, because the very first table I came to had pastured chickens for sale.

YAAAAAAY!!!

That was literally how excited I was. I mean, I didn't literally shout "YAY!" in the middle of the farmers market, but I was shouting joyfully on the inside.

With the exception of the occasional rooster from Ms. Rita or A.'s random desire for fried chicken, we haven't had any chicken since we've been here. It's a pretty much non-stop rotation of pork, beef, and lamb, with the occasional dinner of tuna patties or eggs when I need a break from the parade of meat.

I know. It's not as if I can't buy chicken. Except that I . . . can't. I will occasionally pick up a package of chicken thighs or whatever at the grocery store and consider it, but then I remember that I get grossed out by store-bought chicken and pork (oddly enough, beef is okay--not good, but okay) and I don't buy it.

I just can't stomach a factory-farm chicken now that I've had real chicken. So, no chicken. Until yesterday, when I saw that sign for pastured chicken.

The farmer was charging $3.25 per pound, which seems like a lot only if you're accustomed to paying $.99 per pound at the grocery store. For a pastured chicken, that's actually a pretty good price. I remember seeing chickens at the enormous, fancy farmers market near Blackrock that sold for something like $25 per chicken, which is a little much for me. By comparison, $13 for a chicken seems like a pretty good deal.

Especially considering how excited everyone is to eat it. A. kept going on about how great it's going to be to have a roast chicken. I announced our forthcoming chicken dinner to the children this morning and Cubby and Charlie were all, "Yay! We love chicken! We haven't had chicken in a YEAR!"

Slight exaggeration, but not too much.

Even poultry is an event at our house. We probably need to get out more.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Days of Flies and Tomatoes


Our tomatoes are certainly loving this very unseasonable heat. A. harvested another box full of paste tomatoes for me this morning, so I spent part of the morning canning six more quarts of tomatoes in the hot water bath canner.

And then I had to put on the air conditioning.

I could feel bad about this, except that I am: 1) not at all heat tolerant, 2) 8.25 months pregnant, and 3) dealing with a cold.

Screw guilt. Give me the almost-October A/C.

Also in tomato news, A. had the brilliant idea of drying some of the tomatoes outside. Might as well make use of 89 degrees with punishing sun, right*? He has three trays full of the beefsteak variety of tomatoes drying on top of the Subaru. It's so nice to see the Subaru as food dehydrator put to use again.

I also find it funny that A. seems to have finally succumbed to the Tomato Crazy. It must be catching.

Unfortunately, this hot weather has also brought out the flies. In droves. The three big glass doors in the living room leading to the elevated porch look like a horror movie. Flies EVVVVVERYWHERE. The kids love swatting them, which is fine, but more always appear. We must have swatted four dozen flies yesterday.

I am befuddled by this. All the windows and doors are shut tight. How are they getting in?

At least they seem to confine themselves to the windows, though. They're not attracted to food or people. But still. There are smeared fly guts all over my doors, which I am waiting to scrub off until the end of the heat wave because I know there will be more until it cools down.

So gross.

So that's where we are. Preserving tomatoes, swatting and sweeping up flies, and running the air conditioner until further notice.

* Fun fact: It was hotter at my house on the Canadian border yesterday than it was at my parents' house in Tucson, Arizona. How's that for messed up?

Friday, September 22, 2017

Happy Fall! Oh Wait . . .


Yes, today is the official start of fall. So why is my forecast calling for 87 degrees on Sunday?

That is not sweater weather.

(I think that the weather is supposed to be some kind of online conversational suicide, right? But too bad. That's what I'm talking about today.)

Last weekend it was 84 degrees here, so we took the kids to a local lake beach for a dinner cookout and their last chance to swim. Except apparently it wasn't their last chance, because we have multiple days coming up that are going to be over 80 degrees.

In case you missed it, I do not live in southern Arizona. It is not supposed to be hot here at the end of September.

So much for the frozen north.

The tomatoes, of course, are loving this hot, sunny weather. Especially under their cozy woodchuck greenhouse. A. is the designated harvester this year, as the greenhouse requires a person to duck and literally crawl around to actually get to the tomatoes, and those are not things the 8-months-pregnant body can do without great difficulty. So every couple of days, A. goes out there and proudly bears into the house a big box full of ripe tomatoes.

I spent this morning making salsa and pressure canning it--plus a few random quart jars of plain, raw-pack, not-even-skinned chunks of tomatoes--to take care of the fifty pounds or so of tomatoes that were on the counter. I expect the same amount of tomatoes will be landing on my counter tomorrow.

Sure would have been nice if the tomatoes could have ripened when I wasn't due to have a baby, like, ANY TIME, but I'm not complaining. Much. And I'm trying not to complain too much about the unseasonable heat, because I know I'll be desperate for any hint of warmth in March.

But still. Eighty-seven degrees. That's crazy.

How's the weather where you are, my lovelies?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

It Appears a Dairy Cow Is In Our Future


I went to the grocery store yesterday and I realized that over half of the items on my list were dairy foods: cream cheese, cottage cheese, butter, milk, Parmesan cheese, and buttermilk*.

No regular cheese, though. And why no regular cheese? Because A. went to the cheese factory in our local village a few days ago and came home with this:


You are looking at 17 pounds of cheese. That's right. Seventeen.

The larger brick is just over ten pounds of sharp cheddar, and the slightly smaller brick is just over six pounds of mozzarella. 

You may find this ludicrous. Perhaps you think that A. just got carried away and brought home more cheese than we could ever eat.

Nope. This is the third time we've bought this quantity of cheese. It lasts us a little over a month.

You could say we eat a lot of cheese. And butter, milk, yogurt, cream, cottage cheese, cream cheese . . .

Yeah. We're gonna have to get a dairy cow some day. And that day is probably going to be sooner rather than later.

* No cream, but only because I go to a different store for that to get the real, not-ultra-pasteurized cream.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Return of the Irritating Monkey


Thus far, Jack has shown no interest whatsoever in sitting down and staring at a television show. Not that I can get too upset about this. I mean, does an almost-three-year-old really need to veg out on the couch on a regular basis and watch animated animals cavort around?

No. Far better to pretend to mow the grass with Daddy's moving dolly or build elaborate structures with scrap wood.

Then again, it is awfully nice to sometimes have the option of putting on a cartoon for children so they're not all up in your face all the time.

Part of Jack's disinterest is probably because the only thing we ever put on is an episode of the original Transformers television show from the 80s. This is my bribe to get Cubby and Charlie to pick up their toys at night. After nighttime pick-up, they get one episode of Transformers. This is perfect for the older two, but Jack is mostly disinterested. It is a show for older kids, after all.

However, one of Jack's favorite books at the moment is Curious George Makes Pancakes. So it has crossed my mind that he would probably really like the Curious George cartoon on PBS. I hadn't ever tried it out on him, though, mostly because I didn't really want to start the whole expectation of a cartoon.

Until this morning.

Jack woke up at the unpleasant hour of 5 a.m. today, thanks to the back-to-school cold brought home by his brothers. I read him The Big Caribou Herd and we spent some time discussing the animals. A. got up and read him a tractor book. And then I wanted to lie down for a little while before starting to pack lunches and make breakfast (not so much with the sleeping last night). So I suggested to A. that he could find Curious George on PBS Kids online and see if Jack liked it.

He did. Jack was enthralled with the sight of his book buddy in actual motion, talking (kind of) and everything.

He got to watch two episodes before it was time to wake his brothers up for school. Twenty minutes of reprieve for Mom and Dad? Thanks, monkey. I still think you're annoying, but you sure are useful sometimes.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Take Note


Let us all just pause for a moment and let it sink in that today is exactly one month before my due date with Baby #4. (And Girl #1.)

 . . .

Now that the pause is over with, I can acknowledge that that doesn't actually mean all that much, considering babies come when they damn well please. Cubby was ten days early. Charlie and Jack were each a couple of days early. So maybe this one will be early too. Or maybe she'll be three weeks late, like I was.

That's unlikely, actually, because the medical community really doesn't allow women to go that far past their due dates anymore. So it's safe to say that I'll be having this baby next month one way or another.

I washed and sun bleached the diapers yesterday and there are 25 quarts of applesauce in the utility room. I'm totally ready, right?

Right.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Eat Your Clutter


Though I would never be considered a meticulous housekeeper--let's not talk about the last time I cleaned behind the television, for instance--I do have some serious issues with clutter. It adversely affects me in a very noticeable way. Emotionally, mostly.

This is very unfortunate, considering that I live in a two-bedroom house with four other people, three of whom are small children. And that there will shortly be another small child in this already-crowded house.

I spend a lot of time picking up, putting away, and throwing things out when I can get away with it.

My absolute least-favorite kind is the kitchen counter clutter. My children are forbidden from putting any of their toys, pencils, papers, or other junk on the kitchen counters. That's my work space. My cubicle desk, if you like. It drives me crazy to have to work around non-essential items.

But this time of year, I don't mind a certain kind of kitchen counter clutter.


Tomato clutter is A-OK. Also, carrots, pears, garlic, and shallots. Worth the counter real estate.

It makes me happy to see my counter filling up with tomatoes. It also makes A. happy, because it means that we all have to be appropriately congratulatory about his woodchuck greenhouse, without which I doubt there would be enough ripe tomatoes to clutter up anything.

Of course, this kind of clutter is much more satisfying to take care of than, say, picking up a thousand small pieces of cardboard from Cubby's latest complicated cardboard creation*. Because this kind of clutter gets turned into Finny's tomato sauce. Also, at the command of Prince Jack, some apple/pear sauce.


Don't cross the boy with the crown.

Then most of the clutter turns into food for the freezer.


Actually, the apple and pear sauce (in the jar) will probably all get eaten before I have to freeze any. But some of the tomato sauce will get to the freezer. Hooray.

The only downside? More clutter in the form of this:


Dishes are absolutely the worst part of food preservation. Jack agrees.

* That kid makes everything out of cardboard. Crowns (he made the one Jack is wearing in the photo), robots, castles, and, lately, a smartphone. Yes, out of cardboard. He made little letter pieces that can be arranged to type things out. He informed me quite earnestly that he's been puzzling over how to add Minecraft to it next. And this is why I will never buy him a real smartphone like his friend from school has, which constitutes his sole exposure to the addicting devices. Much better to make them out of cardboard. At least when you're seven years old.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

And Yet, I Keep Typing


I just noticed that this post right here is published post #2502 on this blog.

That's hard to believe. How could I possibly have 2,502 posts' worth of words to spew about essentially nothing?

It's a talent, I guess.

That was a joke.

Just for the sake of round numbers, I should have noted that this thrilling post about canning applesauce was #2500. But if I had known that one was such a momentous marker, I would have felt some pressure to make it, like, about something, rather than just a random stream of consciousness about The State of My Canning.

In hindsight, that was the perfect post for momentous #2500. Because it wasn't momentous, or introspective, or deep. It was a random, not-terribly-exciting bit of a random, not-terribly-exciting life.

And really, that's perfectly representative of the entire story I've been telling here for the past, uh, almost ten years. (That is also hard to believe.) Random and not terribly exciting, but fun anyway.

So here we go with the next 2500 posts about inconsequential triviality. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Fodder in the Playroom


Yesterday evening I was upstairs doing dishes when I heard the children shrieking from downstairs, "SHEEP IN THE HOUSE! THE SHEEP ARE IN THE HOUSE!"

I went downstairs to find the four remaining rams milling around in the kids' bedroom.

Super.

A. was moving their fence, so they were wandering around and apparently wandered right through the downstairs door that one of the children left open.

They were happy enough to follow me back outside, though. After all, it's not as if there was any corn in the kids' bedroom.

I did not run upstairs to get the camera to take a photo for you, because I really wanted them out of the house quickly.

I shut the door and went to find A. "Your sheep were just in the kids' bedroom," I said. "But at least they didn't poop in there*."

"That's a good story," he replied. "Good blog fodder, right?"

As if our whole lives aren't blog fodder without even trying.

Then, when the kids were picking up downstairs before bed, they discovered that while the sheep hadn't pooped in their bedroom, they HAD pooped in the playroom.

Even more super.

Luckily, sheep poop is relatively dry and inoffensive and easy to clean up. Easy for A. to clean up, anyway, because I certainly wasn't doing it. And the boys, of course, found the whole thing HILARIOUS.

Come on, cold weather. We need to do some more slaughtering.

* It's important to be cool when dealing with things like sheep. Otherwise you'd spend all your time getting hysterical about things like livestock in your house.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

It'll Just Have To Do


After approximately two and a half hours in the kitchen this morning saucing and canning the latest bag of feral apples A. picked for me, I now have 25 quarts of applesauce successfully canned.

I think I'm done with applesauce. I mean, I could make more, but I don't really want to.

Next I'll have to can the sauerkraut that's still sauering in the linen closet downstairs in the fancy handmade ceramic fermenting crock the MiL gave me for our anniversary:


I did not make those pickles in the background in the crock. They're refrigerator dills, not fermented pickles.


See the clever little split ceramic plate to hold down the cabbage and the well around the outside to make a water seal to keep out air? So fancy. And well-designed.

Yes, I am aware that canning sauerkraut destroys its probiotic superpowers. I just don't like the taste of uncooked sauerkraut. I'd rather get my probiotics from yogurt. Much tastier.

Then there are the many pounds of Seckel pears we brought back with us from our last trip to Blackrock that are still ripening. Those will probably be canned as pear sauce.

And maybe I'll actually get a chance to can some tomatoes, because our forecast this week is calling for several days at or above 70 degrees with lots of sun. It should get pretty toasty under A.'s woodchuck greenhouse to ripen the many, many green tomatoes that are sitting out there.

So, okay, I'm not really DONEdone with the food preservation for the season, but at least I'm done with the applesauce. That's something.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Today's Theme Courtesy of The Eagles


With slightly altered lyrics . . .


Well, they're allllready gone . . .


And they're feeeeeling . . .


Strong.


I will siiiiing this victory song . . .


'Cause they're alllllready gone.

And a bonus of the now-separated Three Amigos:


Your day will come, Jack. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Thankless Child


From my beloved first-born's mouth today:

"Daddy does all the fun stuff with us. Like camping. All you do is sit in your chair and make dinner."

"Really." I said. "That's all I do?"

"Well, and maybe stuff like laundry. But not too much."

This, after a morning in which I cleaned the bathroom, swept and mopped the floors, cleaned out the kitchen garbage can, did two loads of laundry, harvested garden produce, and fed everyone. Plus gestated the next thankless child.

Sharper than a serpent's tooth, indeed.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Woodchuck DIY


One thing about being married to a woodchuck man is that the term "DIY" takes on a meaning far beyond that of your average Home Depot project.

For instance, a couple of weeks ago A. and I were lamenting all the green tomatoes in our garden and how we just weren't going to get the warm weather to ripen them. "We need a greenhouse," said A.

So he built one. Starting with trees from the brush behind the house.


If your projects start with chainsawing trees down, you might be a woodchuck.

I used to be his unskilled--and frankly, kind of unwilling--helper with these projects. But I have now passed the torch.



And the hatchet for trimming.


A.'s new helper is a lot more enthusiastic. As well as more skilled, to be honest.

After a lot of cutting, trimming, dragging, and wiring, there was a frame the likes of which I could have never imagined.


Maybe we'll just move in with the tomatoes this winter. The structure is certainly big enough.

The project had to be put on hold until the plastic for the covering could be procured at a store, but on Tuesday, the tomatoes were comfortably settled in their rustic greenhouse.


Sides coming soon to up the sauna atmosphere.

Just in time, too, as it was 38 degrees when I woke up this morning. Tomatoes do not enjoy 38 degrees. 

You know what does enjoy 38 degrees, though? Hanging lamb carcasses. Specifically the one that's hanging under the porch right now. 

After severe sticker shock at grocery store meat prices last week, and seeing a relatively cold forecast for the next few days, A. decided to butcher the first of the lambs. He killed it and dressed it out yesterday--with the enthusiastic assistance of all three children--and it's hanging under the porch until at least tomorrow, when he'll cut it up.

Lamb and tomatoes underway. Winter is coming, and we're getting ready, woodchuck-style.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Country-style Motivation


"Hey, guys. I could use some help picking up all these branches from the lawn*. We can pile them up in the fire pit and have a bonfire later."

silence

"Okay, let me re-phrase that: Any boy who helps me pile up all these branches from the lawn will get to roast a marshmallow on the bonfire later. Any boy who doesn't help, doesn't get a marshmallow."


Mommy manipulation for the win.

* There were dozens and dozens of branches to be cleaned up, most from a very ambitious project that A. completed yesterday and that I will share later. It involves my tomatoes. Please contain your excitement.

Lucky Ingrates


It sure is lucky for my children that my idea of fun is picking feral* apples, making them into sauce, and then canning the sauce. If you're going to only have one hobby, I suppose it might as well be an edible one.


More beneficial to them than Sudoku.

Of course, those lucky children spent most of the time I was making and canning the applesauce fighting over blocks and action figures, resulting in many canning interruptions for Mom Refereeing. 

Oh well. Anyone who expects gratitude from children is doomed to disappointment.

* As opposed to true wild apples, like crabapples. There are legions of feral apple trees around here that are descendants of unknown cultivars planted by settlers many years ago. Perfect for fall foraging and a winter's supply of applesauce.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Mom Not Pictured


This morning A. loaded up the Subaru with camping equipment and all three boys to climb a mountain over an hour away.

Jury's out on whether he's completely crazy or just Dad of the Year. Maybe both. Lucky boys.

I did not accompany them. I'm just not one of those Iron Women who run marathons or hike mountains or sleep in a tent at almost eight months pregnant.

I don't feel bad about that, either.

I was probably taking a nap in my nice soft bed about the time that A. took this picture.


I can tell myself it was a well-deserved nap, though, because those peanut butter sandwiches they're eating? ALL ME.*

A. called a little while ago to inform me that they've got the tent set up in a state forest. I expect I'll see them early tomorrow morning, exhausted but exhilarated and ready for an extra-large breakfast. A. will almost assuredly be ready for lots of coffee, too. And he will have it. Because climbing a mountain AND camping overnight with three little boys deserves at least that much, right?

Right. Dad of the Year, for sure.

* Actually, doing all the food prep for camping is the best kind of food prep, because once it's done, they leave and I don't have to do ANYTHING ELSE for hours. Glory, glory, alleluia.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Hello, Neighbor


Yesterday as I was plating up dinner, I happened to look out the kitchen window to see a strange man in the spruce trees right under the window. He disappeared in the direction of the barn.

Uhhhh . . .

Luckily, A. was home. I informed him of the man wandering around our house and he went outside to see what was going on. Cubby wanted to go out, too, but I made him stay inside. Always best in an uncertain situation to not have a seven-year-old on the scene, don't you think?

Before A. found the man, I heard the man talking to something and I thought, "Oh, maybe he's trying to get his dog back." And then I heard a bell.

Ah. Cows.

Sure enough, there were two cows standing by the electric fence around the sheep pen. They were staring at the sheep. The sheep stared back. And yelled, of course.

The man was our neighbor from the trailer compound--three trailers, one clan of a varying number of related people that cycle in and out--about a mile down the road. His two dairy cows had gotten through his electric fence and decided to visit their ovine neighbors. Luckily, he found them before they ate my garden.

I've been on the other side of this situation enough to feel nothing but sympathy for the poor man chasing his livestock around the neighborhood. Though I will say that the cows seemed a lot more docile and easy to maneuver than sheep.

A. helped him catch the cows so he could put a rope halter around their necks and lead them home. Cubby and I looked out the front door to see him walking back down the road, leading his cows back home and presumably planning on reinforcing his fence.

Welcome to the north country, where a strange man crashing through your shrubbery just means that cows have gone walkabout.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Welcome to Crazytown


Would you like a visual of what a room of insanity looks like?


Three beds for three boys. In one room.

There is no way to have three boys in one room and not have a completely ridiculous scene every night. Although at least they're IN beds now, as opposed to when they were just all on the floor. That was pretty much a gladiators arena on mattresses.

Actually, Cubby and Charlie have been pretty good about staying quiet at bedtime since they've gotten their bed frames back. Jack, however, still requires an adult presence sitting on his bed to provide a physical barrier to escape. And even then, he thrashes around in his bed for 45 minutes like a crazed eel before finally, and very suddenly, succumbing to sleep.

Bedtimes have been less than fun around here recently. But one thing that parenting multiple children teaches you is the wisdom of the saying, "This too shall pass."

We just hope it passes sooner rather than later.

Monday, August 21, 2017

This Eclipse Viewing Brought To You By the Public Library


It's a good thing I'm such a devoted library patron. Otherwise I wouldn't have received four pairs of eclipse-viewing glasses and a print-out of the relevant information for our location from the librarian at the tiny library in the village awhile ago.

As it was, I almost forgot I had them until today when I was like, "Oh, wait. Today's the eclipse, right? I wonder when it is."

Obviously, the hype and hysteria that I read about online totally passed me by. I could never be considered a news junkie.

Anyway.

I got out the information sheet and discovered that we're nowhere near a place that could view the total eclipse. Also that the eclipse here was going to occur just when I was driving to the large village for a doctor's appointment. (For the grandmothers who are probably wondering: Just routine, everything's cool.)

But before I left, I set everyone up with the eclipse glasses.


And all of a sudden, it looked like 1987 all over again.


A. was very concerned that Jack wouldn't keep his on and would burn his eyes irrevocably. He didn't.

I took a look through the glasses myself before I left, and you know, it was really pretty cool. 

But not as cool as those little dudes in the shades there. Totally rad.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Ahhhh, Home


Where the sheep are yelling for corn and the tomatoes are sloooooowly ripening.

The first thing Cubby did when he got out of the car at home was run to the garden to see if there were any ripe tomatoes. Because he is definitely his mother's child.


It's a far cry from the late-summer liquor cabinet of old, but it's a start.

There was also a very large Mortgage Lifter tomato that I cooked for dinner last night, along with the green beans that I also sent Cubby out to harvest.*

So handy having a child to harvest things for me. Also handy to be able to come home and browse in the garden for dinner instead of stopping at a store.

We're supposed to have a few days of warm, sunny weather that should help the tomatoes along. If I'm lucky, I may even get enough to make some of Finny's tomato sauce, which is the highest calling for summer tomatoes.

Fingers crossed.

* Plus bacon and eggs and rice, because man cannot live on tomatoes and green beans alone. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Drizzled


We're heading home to the north today from Blackrock, and in the trailer we'll be hauling with us will be many small outfits for a little girl.*

Yes! That means baby shower!

Actually, the invitation to it said it wasn't so much a shower as a drizzle, so as to keep everyone's expectations nice and low. Because this is for the fourth child, you see. A shower--or whatever you want to call it--for a fourth child is a whole different thing from the fancy, elaborate first-child shower.

Some of you may recall the shower the MiL's sister kindly hosted for me at her house lo these many years ago (eight? what? how?) when we were anticipating the arrival of our first-born. There was nicely arranged food and a truly impressive cake and even champagne glasses. And champagne. My mom and my sister flew up here for it. There were no (ex-utero) children present, and it was lovely.

The shower another of the MiL's sisters (she has three) hosted for me this week was held at Cubby's old school. This is the school that sister runs, and she thought it would be convenient because not only does it mean no one has to clean her house, but it's all set up for kids.

None of my family were there, although two of my friends were. Between us, we have nine children so far. Combined with the young cousin who came, that meant there were 10 children under the age of 10. The school location was perfect for them.

There was no champagne, although there was some Corona Light being consumed straight out the bottle. A., who I had asked to come as playground monitor for all the children so the women could possibly actually have a conversation, appreciated the Corona greatly.

There was no elaborate cake, for which I was very grateful, since I can't eat it anyway at the moment. Instead I ate quite a lot of a really delicious curried chickpea salad and surprisingly good raw summer squash salad. We all sat around in tiny chairs at low tables in the school room for our inside picnic and took turns serving the various children present.

Of course, there were also lots of little girl clothes in festive wrappings. Because these women who seem to have no luck when it comes to the next generation producing female offspring really just wanted to buy some adorable little girl rompers. How could I deny them that pleasure?

We can all go ahead and acknowledge here that little girl clothes are way more fun than little boy clothes. I received many very cute items of clothing. In fact, I'm pretty sure this baby is going to be more fashionable than I am.

I don't have any photos. It was just that relaxed. But it was perfect. The perfect small party to celebrate the imminent arrival of this small person who will be welcomed into a family and circle of friends featuring generous hearts, delicious food, and lots of kids to play with.

Lucky girl. And lucky me.

* Also, a forty-year-old woodstove A. is bringing to set up in the barn for the winter so he can hang out in there with any boys who want to be manly and carve stuff or whatever. Because I'm afraid one girl baby is not going to tip the testosterone-heavy balance in our family.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Liquor, Doughnuts, and Other Forbidden Pleasures


I had my big outing in the Small City today, the main purpose of which was to check thrift stores for maternity clothing for me and any clothing at all for my clothes-destroying sons. A. asked me to pick up some whiskey for him at the liquor store while I was in the city, too.

There happens to be a liquor store just down the street from the thrift store, so after I did my shopping, I decided to walk to the liquor store. It was only about 300 yards. Definitely not worth getting in the car again.

This did mean, however, that I had to walk back to my car parked at the thrift store on the busiest road in the city, obviously pregnant and carrying a similarly obvious brown paper liquor store package.

Super.

In addition, my little walk took me directly past the bakery that sells the best doughnuts in the entire world. Thanks to that little issue with gestational diabetes--which is entirely controllable for me if I'm careful of what I eat--I am no longer eating doughnuts.

Harsh. Way harsh.

I marched resolutely past the bakery, holding a bottle of liquor that I am also not permitted to ingest.

The only thing I could take comfort in was the coffee mug that I found at the thrift store. See, I dropped my coffee mug last week and broke it. This was my special mug. The mug in which I drank my coffee every single morning for the past eight years or so.

It was one of those camp-style mugs, the kind that are extra wide and straight-sided. I like that style because they are particularly stable around rampaging children, and also hold a little more than a standard mug. This is important because of the amount of milk I put in my very strong coffee with chicory.

I thought I could just use one of the many other mugs we have. But none of them were the same shape, and I was sad every morning when I drank my coffee out of an inferior mug.

Because of this, I was actually planning on going back to the local Huge Outdoor store from which I originally purchased my mug to get another. Even though it had a picture of a gaping fish on it that I really did not care to see first thing in the morning.

But while I was at the thrift store, I decided to check their selection of mugs and ta da! There was just the right kind of camp mug for 99 cents, with the benign logo of the YMCA on it. So it's even an improvement on the ugly fish mug.

I may not be able to have liquor or doughnuts, but at least I can once again enjoy my coffee from a proper (and gratifyingly cheap) mug. It'll have to do.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Just Call Me The Crazy Garden Lady


This morning I actually said to A., "I hate to leave my garden for a whole week. But I guess I've done everything I can to prepare it for my absence."

Apparently, the garden is my fifth child.

Then again, all my children are coming with me tomorrow when we leave for Blackrock for a week, but the garden will be left to fend for itself.

My preparation mostly consisted of stripping the pea and bean plants of every last small pea and bean, so that I don't come home to overly matured legumes that have caused the plants to stop producing.

Can we just talk for a moment about how incredible it is that I'm still harvesting peas in mid-August?

Peas are a cool-weather crop. They stop producing when it gets hot and dry. At Blackrock, I would rarely get more than one good harvest from the pea plants before they would wither away. But here, this year, it's been so cool and wet that it took forever for the peas to start producing anything at all, but once they did they don't seem to be giving up.

I did pull the shelling peas out this morning, though. They were starting to die, and were harboring an alarming colony of slugs (another result of our cool, wet summer), so I decided to rip them out. I left the snap peas in, though, after harvesting a full two quarts of snap peas from three plants.

The carrots have also been outstanding this year. A. planted a full two packets of seed in April, and they all came up. We started eating the thinnings from the carrots about two months ago, and we've had a steady supply since. The kids more or less free-range in the carrot rows, eating however many they want whenever they want, and we still have incredible quantities of quite large carrots out there.

Unfortunately, the weather that has been so beneficial for the peas and carrots has been very, very sad for the summer crops. Particularly the cucumbers and tomatoes.

There are dozens upon dozens of tomatoes on my sixteen plants and not a single one was ripe. Not one. What a screw. And here we are facing down a killing frost in about a month.

However!

As I was working my way around the tomato forest to get to another patch of green beans to harvest, I spied . . . is that red?

Yes! It's the much-anticipated First Tomato!

I found it in the very center of a remarkably bushy Juliet plant. I haven't been checking the interiors of the plants much, figuring the tomatoes on the outside that are more exposed to the sun would ripen first. I guess I was wrong, because I found the one Juliet that was entirely ripe, and then a few more that were almost ripe, and all were way inside the tomato jungle.

Cubby was in the garden with me when I found it, and he was so excited that he raced into the house yelling to the household at large that there was a ripe tomato.

That's my boy.

Everyone came out to admire the tomatoes I had found. And then I ate the ripe one. Myself. Oh yes, I did. It's a tradition.

I now have some hope that when we get back in a week there will be a lot more red to greet us in the tomato patch. That would be a sweet homecoming indeed.

And in the meantime, we have lots of snap peas and carrots for our long drive tomorrow.


Nothing like homegrown carrot sticks.

Farewell, beloved garden. Ripen lots of tomatoes while I'm gone, okay?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Don't Use That Word


This morning when I announced my intention of sorting through and organizing the disaster of clothing bins in the utility room, A. said The Word. The Word that always comes up with pregnant women and that inspires irrational irritation in me.

"Ah, nesting."

Ugh.

There is no doubt that nesting is an actual phenomenon. It's just the way it's said that always annoys me. Kind of condescendingly, as if hormones are the only reason a woman would choose to, say, scrub the grout in the shower. Never mind the fact that a pregnant woman--especially a woman who has been pregnant a time (or three) before--knows damn well that if that grout doesn't get cleaned now, she's going to be staring at filthy grout for months as she slowly loses her mind with newborn-related sleep deprivation.

Anyway.

The reason I wanted to do all the clothes sorting now is so I could figure out what the kids might need when the colder weather comes. Then I can look for those things at thrift stores when we're at Blackrock next week. There are no thrift stores up here, so I want to look at the thrift stores there first, and then buy online what I can't find there.

While I was sorting clothes, I pulled out the extra convertible carseat we have so A. could put it in the Subaru for Jack. Except when I pulled it out, I noticed that the cover and straps were covered in mildew.

Sigh. Must I be plagued by mildew wherever I go?

I pulled off the cover to wash, which was surprisingly complicated. Many little elastic pieces to be unhooked and buckles to be disconnected and so forth. Then I decided I might as well do the same for the infant car seat I got from someone recently. That was also amazingly complicated to disassemble.

I then hauled the plastic shells outside to hose them down and scrub them with vinegar. They're drying outside right now, as are the covers.

I suspect that I will need A.'s help to figure out how to get those covers back on, however. They will probably defeat me on my own. Besides, if I'm going to be nesting, I might as well drag Papa Drake into it with me, right? Right.

At least we have two months to figure it out.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

You Can Take the Boy Out of Blackrock . . .


A. had to learn many home repair skills while living at Blackrock. Unless you want to spend a literal fortune to pay carpenters and so forth, it's kind of a necessity with a 160-year-old house. 

One of the skills he learned that is definitely unusual was masonry. Because, of course, Blackrock is not just an old house, it's an old cobblestone house. With stone foundations. And those foundations require periodic repair if you don't want your house to literally fall out from under your feet.

So he learned how to replace stones and re-point mortar. He even learned how to mix his own mortar, because the mortar used on old houses like Blackrock is not the same as the modern pre-mixed bags of concrete and so forth available at places like Home Depot. Apparently the old mortar was more flexible than the modern mixes, and therefore is less likely to crack as the foundations shift with freezing and thawing and so on. 

A. also discovered that he has a great affinity and liking for stonework. Handy if you live in a place like Blackrock. He got pretty good at it.

But then we moved. Our current home is only fifteen years old and made of wood on a poured foundation. No need for masonry here.

Except . . .

The church we attend in the village happens to be an imposing stone edifice. And one of the first things A. the Amateur Mason noted was the sad condition of the mortar on the cut-stone front steps. It's crumbling and in many cases completely missing and growing grass. There are other areas that need repair work, but he was pretty sure he could repair the steps in an appropriately professional fashion.

However, the fact that he's not a professional made him a little shy to bring this up with those in charge of church maintenance. I mean, how many random people would really be able to do a repair like that in any kind of acceptable manner? Most people would just slap some modern concrete in there and call it good. 

The thought of this horrifies A., however, and he was particularly concerned that if the deterioration continued, the powers that be would decide to just take out the existing cut-stone steps and replace them with poured concrete steps.

Sacrilege in A.'s eyes.

So he got up the courage to ask the deacon if he might repair the steps for them. (For free, obviously.) After the deacon consulted with whoever he needed to consult, A. got the go-ahead.

Last time we were at Blackrock, he stopped at his favorite masonry supply yard to pick up the supplies he would need. And then he got to work.

This is very slow work. It takes him about two hours to do one step. There are ten steps. He can only work if there's at least a 12-hour window with no rain to enable the mortar to set. This has been somewhat difficult to achieve during this cool, wet summer we've been having.

There is also the issue that the children do not appreciate it when Daddy disappears for hours without them.

A. brought Cubby along with him the first time he went, figuring Cubby might find it interesting. He did find it interesting. He also learned how to do it. It seems ridiculous to think that a seven-year-old can do masonry work, but apparently Cubby's affinity with tools extends to trowels. A. reported with some amazement that not only does Cubby help, but he can actually just DO the work. Like, the two of them just work along side by side. Cubby actually makes the work go faster.

Of course, then Charlie wanted to try. Which meant Jack had to go. And THAT meant that I had to go, too. So we all loaded up on Sunday afternoon and descended upon the church.


Charlie's contribution was mostly scraping and sweeping the old mortar and dirt and grass from the cracks so A. and Cubby could mortar it. Charlie tried working with the trowels, but he doesn't appear to have the same natural feel for it that Cubby does. 

Thankfully, the third (and definitely least helpful) apprentice mason fell asleep in the car on the way to the church, so I just left him sleeping in there while the other three worked. When the inevitable fighting over tools began, I removed Charlie and Jack to the playground. Cubby elected to stay behind to keep working.

A.'s goal is to finish the steps before freezing weather arrives. Mortar won't set in freezing temperatures. So he's got about a month and half. With Cubby's able assistance--and mine in the form of keeping the other two out of the way--he should make it.

So the church gets its steps repaired for free and A. gets to do his beloved masonry. Everyone wins.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Professionalism in the Workplace


Some background: A. uses our home landline phone for his home office. Because cell phones usually don't work here, he needs the landline. Through the miracles of modern technology, it routes through his old work number. No one knows the call is going to or from our home, but it is through our landline. He takes the mobile handset into his office when he's working, so I don't pay any attention if the phone rings during a work day.

When he makes a call out via his computer (again with the miracles of modern technology), the phone in the house rings, for reasons I'm not very clear on.

There is a corded phone downstairs on which I usually have the ringer turned off, so it doesn't wake the kids up. But when we had a power outage a few days ago, I turned the ringer on so I would know if someone was calling. I hadn't yet turned it off again.

And now the stage is set . . .

I was upstairs in the kitchen preparing to do battle with sourdough dough. All three children were downstairs playing some game that was rendering them increasingly hysterical. The phone rang. I ignored it, because A. had the handset in his office.

And then I heard A. bellowing, "KRISTIN!"

I thought he had gotten a call saying someone had been in a horrible accident or something. I went to the door just as he came in scowling and saying, "I'm trying to make a work call and the kids are shouting 'wiener' on the line."

I went downstairs to find the phone back in its cradle and both Charlie and Cubby disavowing any wrongdoing. I suspect Cubby was the one who picked up the phone, and Charlie was the one shouting the offending word.

A. left the house yelling, "No wieners when I'm on a work call!"

I impressed upon the children the importance of them never picking up the phone or saying that word*. And then I turned the ringer off again.

When A. came back in a little while later, I apologized for the incident. He shrugged and said he got the case anyway. I asked who had been on the line. "A private client who wanted to hire me. It's okay, though. I just told him, 'That was my kids on the line yelling wiener. It wasn't a prank call or anything.'"

I'm sorry, anyway. For all of us.

* And Cubby wonders why I yell more than Ma. I bet Laura and Mary never did anything like this.