Spending too much time with the dog, apparently

I have been cleaning house lately. Part winter nesting, part kids sick and home from school so plenty of time to spare, part getting tired of chaos on one particular kitchen counter that seems to be a junk/trinket/paper magnet. It started several weeks ago and it is still in full swing.

Honestly, I get so into it at times that I think the girls are starting to worry that in a fit of organization, I am going to accidentally box them up and drop them off at Goodwill.

Anyways, poor Riley has been the one to really be stuck watching the flurry of activity. Part of me has thought that teaching him how to take items and put them in their proper bins (donation, recycle, girls’ pile, Country Boy’s) would have been helpful. I just don’t know that the dog slobber permanently embedded in let’s say, the favorite blanket, would’ve been appreciated by everyone. Oh well.

Riley has been great at being a sounding board for me when it comes to deciding what to do with some of this stuff. “Should I keep this sweater that I got in 1994?” Downward glance, droopy ears = “No, you really should have donated that back in 1996. We’ve all really hoped that you would only wear it to work in the barn…under a big coat….on a day when we’re all back in the house.”

His honesty is refreshing at times, like getting snow down your boot when you accidentally park the van too close to a snow pile at the grocery store.

We talk a lot during my scurrying. Well, I talk. He mainly gazes at me with either a look that says, “You realize I am a dog, right?” or one that says, “Enough of this business, I have a ball I need to fetch, a tree I need to mark, and some cat backside to sniff.” (Let’s just say that Nala isn’t too happy about that last part.)

But there are those times where he really seems to be a part of my conversation. For example, when I found a book that had a poem I wrote several years ago in it, he seemed really pleased to listen to it:

The Daily Special by me

Morning time

Laying in bed, planning out the day

“Today I will be the Chef, not the entre,” I think

Tasks and ideas lined up and packaged neatly like noodles in a box of spaghetti

Each thought separate, each goal clearly defined

Girls awake. Someone’s grumpy – the pot fills with water

“Hurry before the bus comes! Don’t forget your lunch!” – the fire is lit

Off to drop one more, then on to work, each moment wondering what was forgotten

The pot of water begins to boil and my plans, my day, are plunged into the turbulent waters

Thoughts no longer clear, I am pulled and pushed by the endless needs of others

Until – finally – the bedtime hour nears and I heap myself on to the silver platter of my pillows

Resigned to be the entre yet again

Hopeful to be the Chef tomorrow

Riley seemed to really like that one. Maybe it was because he appreciates my writing. Maybe it was because he heard food and he thought he’d get a treat at some point when I was done rambling. In any case, we really seemed to bond over that one. I went to bed feeling happy.

In the days that followed, Riley has snatched Maddie’s toast, gone after a waffle, licked the yogurt container, put the plastic duck Zoe was wearing on a lanyard in his mouth, and follows me around the kitchen constantly. He also will now sit and watch the girls eat, staring at each bite as it goes from plate to mouth.

Apparently, my poem triggered something in him, just not what I wanted. I have somehow triggered a food-crazy response in Riley that can not be stopped. Who knew that poetry could be so powerful?

So just be forewarned that, should you come over to the farm, you may be impressed with how much more organized everything looks but please make sure you remember to do a full body block on any food you want to eat.

Chef Riley is in the house.


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When Tylenol just wouldn’t be enough

It started a week ago Sunday with rosy cheeks. We had a crackling fire in the fireplace and Maddie had camped herself next to it to do her homework. When I saw her rosy cheeks a little later, I wanted to believe that it was just because of her choice of seats.

Denial can be very hard to overcome.

Thankfully, the thermometer doesn’t have other plans or things to do that might sway its judgement. It told me the reality. Maddie was sick and down for the count.

Zoe woke up Monday and felt a “little wobbly” but, frankly, that describes most Mondays for me. She decided to go to school with the instructions to go to the nurse should she feel worse.

She lasted an hour.

Monday sniffles and fevers turned into Tuesday 103 temps and coughs.Two kiddos wiped out and needing lots of TLC. And so we stayed home and I went into full Nurse Momma mode.

Maddie came out of the bleariness by Tuesday evening and, by Wednesday was ready to go to school. Zoe needed another day of recovery. With one patient gone, I was able to catch up on some computer work and phone calls, thankfully. Still, leaving the house to get anything done was not an option.

“No worries,” I thought. “I’ll have Thursday and Friday to catch up.”

Maddie came home Wednesday with the February school calendar…the one that showed that they had Friday off for teacher in-service.

I think my reaction was something along the lines of a slack jaw drop and a minion-like, “Whaaaaa….” coming out of the depths of my being.

[warning: here’s where I am going to sound painfully old] When I was young, I don’t remember having so many “in-service” days off. We went to school in September and didn’t have any breaks until June. Heck, we even kept our Christmas stockings at school because that’s where Santa knew he would find us sleeping in our cubbies… OK, not really. But seriously, what’s with the random day off in early February when they have a four day weekend coming up for President’s Day? Normally, I would be thrilled with having a long weekend with the girls, but after 72 hours of being on-call with sick-bed girlies without any backup (Country Boy was out of town), I was ready to call the superintendent of schools to beg for reconsideration of the off day.

So, Thursday became the day I had to cram in ever delayed errand and job no matter what. The morning included much needed adult conversation at breakfast with a close friend. I apparently was so hungered for discussions that did not include talk of nose mucus and bathroom visits that breakfast lasted until lunch and, when I finally made it to the grocery store, I struck up conversations with several random strangers.

I was glad I got out of farmville that day, because the girls and Country Boy wanted to stay home-bound pretty much the rest of the weekend. Thank God for church and the Super Bowl, which allowed us to breath some fresh air yesterday.

So, when I turned on the tv this morning and the weather forecast called for an additional 2-4″ of snow today and more coming, you’ll have to excuse me for wanting to make sure I was better prepared to be stuck on the farm for awhile.

More milk, yogurt, and bread. Check.

Van filled up with gas. Check.

City Girl medicine. Check.


OK, week, I’m ready for you this time. Bring it on.

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If only

If only I had not grown up in the snowbelt of Western NY and was afraid of driving when the weather forecast called for 3-6″ of fresh snow to fall in four hours.

If only I had not allowed my heart time to grieve and heal from what I had gone through so it was still too jaded to love again.

If only one of my best friends hadn’t changed careers and worked at a place where a coworker decided to take up horseback riding at a barn near where I lived.

If only they hadn’t decided to go to the barn gathering out at a new place in town and invited me to go along.

If only I had made other plans or rented a sappy, chick flick of a movie at home.

If only I didn’t have the willingness to go to new places.

If only I was was in a shy mood rather than the more talkative personality trait I inherited from my father.

If only I was less brave.

If only he had made other plans and couldn’t help his cousin who lived over an hour away from his house.

If only his cousin was more reserved and quiet.

If only he hadn’t allowed himself to be talked into staying a little longer rather than going back to an empty house.

If only he hadn’t been sitting at a place that was on the path I was about to cross.

If only our eyes hadn’t met.

If any of those things would’ve been different five years ago this weekend, then I wouldn’t be where I am right now-married to a Country Boy and living on a farm…

and dealing with a dog that just ate a whole loaf of Gluten Free bread when I turned my back for a second.

You never know when or where the moment that will change your life’s path will happen. I thank God every day that everyone involved made the choices needed to allow for the Country Boy and I to meet.

Notice I said “every day” and not “every moment,” because, frankly, when that dog eats a $6 loaf of bread or when I have a mule who looks like he’s ready to kick me across the barn I wonder how my life got to this point. But just for a moment. Then it’s back to blissful, bluebird happiness…until the cat goes ninja on my nice chair.

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Eeny meeny miny moe catch a momma by the toe

It was the perfect confluence of events.

Long weekend off from school. Our usual MLK day destination (Washington, DC) was unavailable because of inauguration craziness. Brutally cold temps meant outside activities were limited to an as needed basis only (as in, “Riley is crossing his legs, Mom.”). And winter’s nesting tendencies were coming out in full force.

It started in the guest bedroom. A few pieces of furniture rearranged (after figuring out that we really wouldn’t need the use of the separate wall heater so blocking it wouldn’t matter), add some curtains I whipped up, and voila! Instantly felt more homey.

The basement was the next logical spot for us to focus on, especially since the girls would be home to yea/nae any toys for donation. I carefully measured the dimensions of the space and dreamed up my design for how it could better function. One side would be the books and toys. The other would be the game/craft central with a full sized table and bench seating with storage.

We purchased bookcases to house our vast library of books on Saturday and set them up on Sunday. I convinced the girls to let me take the area rug that had been in their room (nice rug but didn’t seem to fit with their room decor no matter how much I wanted it to work) down to the basement. They were good sports about that and even gave up more toys than I expected (*sniffle*). It was going well.

By going well, I mean that the vision was starting to come together. If you were to walk into our basement, you’d probably either wonder how a tornado managed to come inside my home or call A&E to recommend me for hoarders.

Flush with success at their work, the girls went upstairs to take showers. I decided that I was still ready to work so I stayed behind to do a little more.

What I ended up doing was dropping four wood boards that had been my “table” stand-in onto my big toe.

Some important notes:

1. I was glad the girls were two floors away, with water running over their little ears, at the time. The words that immediately came out of my mouth were not ones they should hear until they’re at least 25, and then only in extreme circumstances.

2. I could now appreciate how a big toe injury is enough to sideline a top NFL player. Sorry for disparaging you guys as being “too soft” in the past.

3. I must have been whimpering something good while I lay crumpled on the floor because Riley came over and put a paw on my shoulder. I tried to get him to fetch me an ice pack and a cold Coke but that’s beyond our training at this point. I’ll need to work on that.

4. When I could stand and make my way upstairs the girls were very kind and loving towards their gimpy Mom. They even carried my bowl of popcorn upstairs to my bed (comfort food is required in certain circumstances).

5. You know how a body part can seem to have its own heartbeat when it is throbbing in pain? My big toe was beating so hard that it actually became a separate being. It filed notice that it went on strike at midnight. No more heels. No tight, pointed toe shoes (no matter how cute). And, for gosh sakes, only steel-toed boots when operating any tools and equipment, including my bare hands. The rest of my toes and feet are trying to negotiate a settlement, but so far the big toe seems to have the upper hand (couldn’t resist bringing the hands into this even if it was their carelessness that caused the mishap in the first place).

One doesn’t realize how much one takes toes for granted until they are nonfunctional. Finding a sleeping position that didn’t put any pressure on my toes was impossible. Sleeping with my foot outside the covers was unthinkable considering how cold it was last night. It was one of those nights where you are exhausted so you fall asleep after some fits and starts. Then your body forgets that it tried to remove one of its appendages earlier in the evening and it shifts like it usually does at night. That’s the point that the body is quickly reminded by said appendage of its transgression and the whole cycle starts all over again.

So, for the near future, if you see me hobbling around in my not so pretty shoes just smile kindly and know that I’d much rather be in my high heeled boots. And be thankful for cold winter days. While my big toe is wishing for sandals right now, the sight of it might not be something others should see.

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I need a hero

Poor Zoe. She has some unfortunately bad timing with clothing and accessories and news events.

The first happened a few years ago. The Country Boy wanted to show me his alma matter so we made a trip over to see his old stomping grounds. It was a beautiful campus, made even nicer by hearing stories of adventures from days gone by. Considering that the Country Boy is not one for blabbing on and on, it was an even more memorable day for me. So I did what any mom would do – I bought t-shirts for the girls and I to wear with his college logo.

Zoe loved her shirt and it quickly went into the “favorite shirt” rotation (you know, that small grouping of clothes that seem to be worn all the time no matter how many other clothing they have in the closet.).

And then Jerry Sandusky happened. At first, I didn’t stop her from wearing the shirt. Penn State is a great university filled with quality students and faculty. I didn’t want to judge the whole school harshly for the conduct and behaviors of a few reprehensible people.

Then came the day that the jury came back with the verdict. Can you guess what shirt came up in rotation? So there I was having to explain to little Zoe why that shirt might not be the best choice to wear on that day. Thankfully, Zoe is a thoughtful and bright kid, so I was able to explain the nuance of still liking the school but not wanting to give the impression by wearing the shirt on THAT day that she supported the program which allowed some really bad behaviors to happen. Heavy topic for a little kid.

Flash forward to recent times. Over the years, Zoe’s life has intersected with several people – family and friends – fighting cancer. Several knocked cancer on its backside (Wahoo, Gramps!) and some are in for the long battle (Go, Andy!). Somewhere along the line in recent months, the girls were given bracelets to show their support for cancer fighters. Zoe, of course, started wearing hers every moment of every day.

Then Lance Armstrong decided to come clean about being dirty.

[Editor’s Note: This whole story has a more personal connection to Zoe because I was on the Champs Elysses to celebrate Lance’s 5th Tour de France victory. I came home from that trip with a croissant in the oven so to speak…]

So there we were discussing why having the yellow LiveStrong bracelet itself is a fine (great foundation, does much for those fighting cancer), wearing it to school yesterday may lead to either comments from other kids or give the impression that she supports Lance.

[Editor’s Note #2: I am all about redemption, 2nd chances, forgiveness. If Lance truly is sorry for cheating/doping and comes clean to USADA as well as apologizes to those he maliciously attacked when they told the truth about him, then he would be a great man again in my book. Right now, though, he doesn’t seem to own up to what he did or how his choices impacted others.]

So, the yellow bracelet came off yesterday. She’s still sleeping so I don’t know if it will appear today. I sort of hope it stays off until next week sometime because the world is talking so much about what Lance did or didn’t say.

Laying in bed this morning I started thinking that it is tough to find good and worthy heroes these days. Maybe the heroes of the past were just as flawed but were able to hide it better without the 24-hour news shows constantly on the prowl for stories. Maybe we were all duped in the past but were blissfully ignorant of their cheating or flaws.

I laid there wondering if there would ever be a shirt or bracelet or symbol that Zoe could wear that was guaranteed to not come out in a scandalous news story. The only one that I could think of was the cross. While there are definitely some in this world who use their Christian faith to hurt or persecute others, the cross itself is above that.

Kids need heroes. The world needs heroes. Good and decent people are out there still, right? Good guys can win, I think.

Maddie and Zoe asked if the Tour would award the runner ups to Lance’s victories the yellow jersey. I had to explain that they, too, were guilty of cheating along with many of the other top finishers. They said that then they should give it to the rider who finished last because they were probably the one who didn’t dope which is why they were so far behind the others.

Those girls. Always thinking of others.

I know one thing- they’re my heroes.

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Wanting a life of cipitation because anticipation stinks

I think I started the anticipation of the Christmas blues in October. It got strong in November and unbearable in December. Poor Country Boy was dealing with an emotional roller coaster ride that didn’t seem to have any end (or at least one that would end well…).

Then the week the girls would leave came. And then Christmas came. And then I was left alone on the farm with mules, and other animals. All of the things I had anticipated happening and that had made my insides feel like Frosty in a greenhouse.

But other things happened, too. We spent Christmas Eve with the Country Boy’s family,a large portion of whom were going through the first Christmas without their Mom. We all had moments of tears, but we also had moments of fun and laughter. It was nice to lean on one another.

The Country Boy and I spent Christmas with a good friend and her wacky family. I saw wacky because he reminded me of my family, and I know we’re wacky. It was the next best thing to being home.

Those days where I was left with a quiet farm and an ark full of animals actually wasn’t so bad either. I was snowed in and made the most of my solitude. Riley and Nala are great listeners. Plus, they know how to keep a secret.

I ended my time being thankful for technology (the person who created FaceTime is my new hero) because I had a chance to see my girlies even if just for a brief chat. I was also thankful for the exact opposite of cutting edge, slick gadgets. Zoe had made two delightfully 3rd grader like crafts that she made us open on Christmas Eve. My washcloth snowman and the Country Boy’s rock face Santa were the reason I survived the days they were gone. So adorably kid made, they were better at putting the Christmas spirit in my heart than anything else. Thank God.

Before I knew it, the girls were home and life on the farm turned back into the crazy, laughter-filled (and preteen tantrum land mine filled) place I know and love. So, in two years when I’m faced with a Christmas without the girls remind me not to let it get me down so much.

And remind me to wait until after Christmas to shop for their presents.

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Blue Christmas

You know me, (OK, you might not really know me, but you’ve read my blog so you sort of know me…then again, you may have just stumbled onto this post after googling “Blue Christmas” hoping to get Elvis and instead you found a crazy woman blabbing about the holiday and kids. If the latter is the case then you will just have to take my word on what I am about to say) I am usually a “glass half full” type of person.

Especially if it is half full of Coca-Cola.

I may have my moments of spazzy, my fits of frustration, my times of stress. But, for the most part, I pull up my farm-girl overalls and get back into looking at the bright side of life. It may take an hour, or a day, but I can make that turn.

This time, though, I am having a hard go of it.

I really didn’t want to write about it. It is Christmas time, after all. People want happy thoughts, feel-good stories. Miracles on 34th Streets. Fa la la la la and all that jazz. A time to look at the wonders around you and be thankful. A time to feel the anticipation of the birth of Jesus. The season of merriment and joy….I want to write about that stuff but all I can think of is wanting it to be over because my heart will be breaking.

Here’s the scoop for why Grinch stole my Christmas (or why my name may be Ebenezerella this year):

My two girls will be away from home from the 21st through the 29th this year.

Quirk of break scheduling and holiday timing made it so. Just thinking about missing the fun and joy of the days leading up to and the days immediately after the holiday makes my ho ho ho turn to boo hoo hoo.

I’ve tried to hide it. Ended up eating a whole bowl of popcorn and several pieces of chocolate while also falling into fits of crabbiness and sobs. If I want to fit into my jeans without fear of blowing out more of my favorites and be happily married to my Country Boy, I had to stop that behavior.

I tried to work through it by getting my lovely little ones gifts that will put smiles on their faces when they opened them. That was great until it dawned on me that they may get many of those same items on the actual Christmas morn and not be so thrilled when they roll around to our gifts days later.

I pulled out my usual “get over it” tools – volunteering to help others, reading sappy stories, praying, etc. It has helped (thank goodness, my chair is saying) but I am still in a funk.

So, here I am, writing about it to you. I’m calling it Blog therapy. (I just hope you don’t charge $100 an hour for your reading services.)

I’m still doing our traditions to make the best out of this holiday season. We talked about Our Lady of Guadalupe yesterday. This morning I woke the girls up wearing a crown of light for the Feast of St. Lucy (granted, it was a few LED head lamps rather than a wreath with candles, but it was light…). We’re decorating gingerbread houses soon, watching classic Christmas movies, driving around looking at holiday lights – you know, the stuff that brings families together. In the back of my mind, though, is the thought of a blue Christmas.

I know I will snap out of it soon. It is usually just the anticipation of something that is worse than the actual thing you are dreading, right? I bet by next week I will be back in full Jingle Bell Rockin’ mode and totally forgetting the blues of these last few weeks.

Still, if I start posting pictures of velvet Elvis and eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches you’ll understand what is going on with me.

Thanks for reading. Let me know how much I owe you.

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