Sunday, January 4, 2015

Merry Christmas to All and to Blog a Good Night

After a lot of procrastinating, writer's block, and soul searching, I've decided that I've come to the end of this blog. The idea of babbling to the world about my life and children seemed much more creative and unique when I began this blog.
I've often wondered if my whisper is heard among the din of social media. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. If my printed words never reach a wider audience than my own eyes, this blog has been amazing practice. I am a better person when I write.
I will probably start another blog. Probably not today. I hope I can be more creative, more insightful, more funny, and even more heard.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for bearing through my bad writing and enjoying my good. Thank you. I hope you'll read me again soon.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Back on the Slug Wagon

Summer really threw off my running schedule. Then, school started, and I had to find a new routine. Then...then...then... Well, I am finally starting to run again, and it feels good not to be a slug. I have never been one to go "work out." I am immensely surprised that I like running as much as I do. Sometimes, however, I have to remind myself that I like it. This is the almost daily conversation I have with myself when I feel the treadmill calling my sluggish name:

Should I run today or should I eat some Halloween candy for lunch?
I should run, and we already ate most the good candy.
I am seriously debating this. Candy for lunch? How old am I? Thirteen?
No, I'm almost thirty-one. I am a responsible mama who is going to eat a big, old plate of vegetables for lunch...after I run.
I'll run after I write, throw in a load of laundry, unload the dishwasher, call the vet, and feed Tibby.
My knee kind of hurts. I am thirty-one, after all.
Seriously? It doesn't hurt. Slugs don't even have knees.
I know I will feel better afterward. Besides, my butt hurts from sitting at the computer too long. Apparently, slugs do have butts.
I'll just go run.
Okay...okay...Here I go.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

If I Won the Lottery

On long car trips, Bubba and I frequently fall into the same lengthy conversation. Our talk is sparked by the ever present lottery billboards along the highway. We follow a predictable script.
"What would you do if we won $120 million dollars?" I wonder aloud.
I wonder in spite of the fact that I don't buy lottery tickets.
Bubba's first answer has the tedium of an old man's favorite joke. "Well, you wouldn't actually win that much. After taxes, you'd only get like 65 million."
Undaunted, I roll my eyes and ask, "Well, what would you do with $65 million?"
Our answers also vary little. I would immediately pay off our house and our car. I would like to start my own environmental education and wildlife center. One of my most frivolous desires would be a private plane, so that we don't have to make the long drive we are inevitably making when this conversation arises. Of course, I'd want to make sure our kids never had to worry about money. I have a few other frivolities and travel adventures at which I'd love to throw a bunch of money. I also know that I'd feel obligated to give most of it away.
One thing is for sure: If I won the lottery, my life would be different. I could buy salmon when it's not on super sale. I could replace all my dilapidated windows with a wave of my magic wallet. It sure would be nice to spend without worrying or even thinking.
However, I am not so naive as to think that a winning lottery ticket would solve all my problems. While I admit that an exorbitant amount of money would solve quite a few, I know that life is unpredictable. Appendix burst, and legs break. Cars crash, and families argue. Things happen no matter what is in your checking account.
Until my imaginary ticket is pulled, I do my best to be grateful for my family, the mossy roof over our heads, and the payment plan cars that haul us around. I will do the best with our pennies and enjoy the daydreams the lottery gives, if not the dollars.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Good Job, Mommy

I lost something. Something important. Somewhere along the road in my adulthood, I have completely and totally lost the ability to take pride in my job. In my life before kids, I worked at the nature center. I could look at something I did and think, "That was cool. I did that, and I did a good job." Whether it was a program I taught when I knew that the kids were really engaged or a wounded heron that I helped heal enough to be released, I felt great about what I'd done. I knew I'd done a good job.
I've lost that.
My job now is just being a mom. I've set my own maternal bar so high that I can't reach it.
My dad frequently answers my self doubt with the same advice. He says, "You know, nobody's done it perfectly yet." While intellectually I agree with his statement, emotionally I feel like I should be better. Better than better. The best. I should be the perfect parent.
And I can't be. And I know that, but I can't figure out how to give myself and my kids a break.
I love being a stay at home mom, but I will admit that there are days that I see no gratification in it. Some days no one says thank you for their Cheerios. I have days when I feel like everyone in the house has better things to do than talk to me. On others, my kids are literally pulling on me and talking over each other to get my attention. Everyone's unending laundry and dishes are cleaned and put away with only my hands touching them. Sometimes, I feel invisible.
My kids will never be perfect. By default, the product of my job can't be perfect. Does that mean I can't take pride in my imperfect, lovable monkeys? Of course. Unfortunately, I take too little joy in their successes and too much fault in their failings. I think I need to work on that. Even if I was the perfect parent, my kids can't be perfect. They are human, after all. I need to judge myself based on myself, not them.
Yesterday, we didn't do anything too special. We shopped for Nora's friends' birthday presents. Then, we enjoyed the wet afternoon watching Halloween movies and dinosaur shows. But I didn't lose my temper today. I listened to their stories and answered their questions. I fed them. I hugged them. I read to them. I kept them safe.
Since I will probably only hear it inside my own head, I have to say: Good job, Mommy. You did a good job. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


"What do you guys want to do today? You have some choices. We can..."
My conversation with my children starts this same way every Sunday. Since we have all but abandoned finding a home church and Saturdays are ruled by the soccer schedule, Sundays have become our family fun days.
Unfortunately, I get three different answers to my Sunday morning question. Nora is always ready for an exploit. The only time she is actually excited to play at home is if she has a friend over. On the other hand, Gray chooses a "lazy bum day" every single time. Although he is such a sociable little man that I believe he is destined to be a minister or a politician when he grows up, he misses home. I take it as a supreme compliment. Biking, hiking, swimming, museums, and fishing don't sound as fun as time at home with Luke Skywalker fighting pirates on the living room floor.
I feel pressure build with every approaching weekend, however, to have dazzling adventures with Nora and simple time on the couch with Gray. I feel like I need to maximize every minute with memories while still getting the laundry done. I'm still learning to balance two school kids and two weekend days. So far this school year, Saturdays are for Nora, filled with soccer games, festivals, and sleepovers. Sundays are Gray's day of movies, hugs, and home.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Fruit for a Year

I thought I missed peach season this year. Mid-August marks the tail end of local, ripe peaches, but, lucky for me, the season ran late this year. We stopped by the orchard in Charlottesville. Their "scratch and dent" half price peach boxes were almost empty. I knew it wouldn't hurt to ask, and the staff was delightfully accommodating. We picked through peaches. Even with very high standards, we still ended up with two full bushels.
In just a few days, I canned thirty-six quarts of peaches and eighteen quarts of applesauce.
I love canning, despite the sweat of steaming pots, the blood caused by the slice of a lid, and the tears of doom when there is still one more half bushel to peel. Once, Bubba questioned my commitment to canning. Truthfully, applesauce isn't even much more expensive to buy than my homemade. Then at dinner, he dipped his spoon into a bowl of the smooth, yellow pulp. He couldn't believe how much better it tastes than the store bought stuff. He hasn't questioned it since.
I gave myself a break after the three bushels of fruit I did at once. I overdosed a bit. I'm ready to jump back into applesauce next week, though!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Pepper Preservation

I've probably picked a peck of peppers out of the garden already, and more are ripening every day. I hate to admit it, but I was kinda getting tired of fajitas and pico de gallo.
I decided to preserve some peppers for future preparations. Normally, I am quite a snob about frozen vegetables, and Bubba is even worse. However, I plan to put the peppers into chili, soup, and maybe even salsa. All the peppers in those dishes are pretty darn mushy anyway, so freezing shouldn't do much damage. Nora and I quartered and seeded the bell peppers. We sliced the jalapenos and cut the banana peppers into strips.
I've never done this before, but I'm hopeful that my pepper plan will pan out perfectly.
Do you know the perfect way to preserve peppers? What are your favorite pepper recipes?

Friday, September 5, 2014

What To Do with a Bat on the Porch

Most of the time, I get along well with the local colony of bats. They screech at us from the vents in the attic and poop on my porch, but mostly we ignore one another. However, once in a while, our world collide.
I noticed a fuzzy blob on the wood below our front door while I was stepping across the threshold.
"What are you doing there?" I asked the small bat. The kids were playing on the front porch, so I added, "Guys, do not touch it, but there is a bat right here if you want to see it. Don't touch!"
Bats are small, and their teeth are tiny. Unfortunately, they are also a rabies vector. Only one in about 200 bats actually contracts and carries rabies, but possible exposure means some awful consequences for the human and the bat involved. The human has to have several vaccinations while the bat has to be euthanized so that the health department can look at its brain.
"Don't touch! Just wait here. I'll move him and let him go. I'll be right back."
I stole back inside to grab my bat removal tools: a plastic container with a lid
"Okay, ready." Six wide eyes watched as I placed the container over the still bat, placing the opening over the bat and flat against the wall to create a little cage.
"Is it alive?" Nora wondered. In response, the bat screeched and flopped itself to the bottom of the container. I slid the lid between the wall and the container and snapped it in place.
Voila, a bite proof bat transporter! I chose clear plastic so the kids could see the bat's thin, stretchy wings and sharp, tiny teeth up close.
When the kids' curiosity was satisfied, I walked our friend over to the woods. Carefully, I opened the lid and tilted the bat onto a tree. Bats usually take off in flight from high places and swoop down as they fly. The kids couldn't believe how fast the bat climbed up the tree and away from us.
When bats or other wildlife seemingly invade our space, we usually panic, asking, "What should I do?!" Usually, the answer is that don't need to do anything. The skunk in the trashcan will leave when it is done eating or the raccoon on the back porch will wander off when it gets bored. However, if a bat is hanging out on your front door, on your ceiling fan, or coffee table (all places I've had bats), the plastic container removal is easy and safe for both human and beast.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Two Thirds Quieter

My house is so quiet. Almost hauntingly quiet.
Two of my three little monkey kids are at school. Lily and I wander around the house. We're both trying to remember what we do without them.
I vacuum. I scrub the toilets. I watch Project Runway. I look at the clock.
I have a new "to do" list pinned on my cork board. I spend nap time ticking off boxes, feeling like Super Mom. I look at the clock again.
Gray boarded the bus on his first day with teary, wide eyes and his tiny hand in his sister's. She confidently pulled him to his seat in the front. Per my plea, she diligently sat with him on the ride to school and home again. They both came home beaming.
I am so happy that they love school. I'm thrilled to hear their stories of their life without me around. I know they need time away from me to grow. But it's still hard. The school bus is now taking two pieces of me away.
When I was eighteen, Bubba convinced me to do a 180 foot rappel off the side of a mountain in Tennessee. The descent was terrifying, thrilling, and all too short. Sending my kids to school feels like I'm convincing them to rappel. I provide the harness, the helmet, and the ropes. I've done it before, so I know it's safe. It's not something that they have to do to survive, but I know they'll love it and will grow from it. They have to take the first step off the ledge, into the air and the unknown. Then, they have to slowly work their way down the whole cliff. I can talk them through it and support them, but I can't do it for them. They can't quit halfway down, and they can't come back up. They have to make it to the ground. When they do, they'll decide where they want to turn and what will happen next.
School is my kids' first step away from me. It's terrifying, thrilling, and the time will be too short. But I know we will grow from it.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Thank Goodness for Pigs

The worst thing about canning and preserving my local summer peaches and tomatoes is the mess they leave behind. Both need to be peeled before they are stuffed into mason jars, and the mountains of sweet smelling detritus they leave behind can leave me overwhelmed.
Luckily, we got new pigs just in time. With the last few ham steaks of John Lee and a few packages of Sage's sausage still in the freezer, we brought Hermione and Handsome to the farm as their tasty replacements. And thank goodness for pigs.
So far, they've already gobbled up my tomato and peach remains, as well as some stale cereal the kids swore they liked, corn husks, and the bits and pieces of unrecognizable leftovers Bubba hoarded in a desperate desire for real food he didn't have to make while I was at the beach with my family.
I hate throwing food away. It wastes money, which I try very hard to never do.
It wastes my time. After all, I'm the one who prepares all the food in our house.
And it wastes nutrients. When we don't have pigs, during the interval months when we've slaughter's last year's and this years haven't been weaned, I compost. However, our little composter has a hard time keeping up. Pigs, on the other hand, never fill up. Instead, they magically transform rotten peppers into bacon. Thank goodness for pigs!