When Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick meets dog

Last Wednesday was the Feast of Saint Nicolas. It’s a fairly big deal in many parts of the world and I’ve made it a part of our holiday merriment since the girls were very little. Every year on the evening of December 5th we put out our shoes and the next morning we find chocolate coins, little trinkets, and new Christmas pajamas.

Great holiday fun!

So, this year we put out our shoes/slippers (Zoe once again expressing her unique style) and went anxiously to sleep. Given that I am animal feeder extraordinaire – and the first one up – I was able to get a glimpse and photo of what was left for all of us.


Now, I am not foolish enough to think that Riley would leave those chocolate coins alone when we got done with our morning routine and I went upstairs to get the girls started on their day. I very smartly kept Riley out in the garage until the girls and I were back downstairs and coins were safely within our grasp.

Gave myself a little pat on the back for thinking ahead…

Now is the time that I should note that I put a festive tablecloth on the kitchen table to help bring out more Christmas cheer to our eating. [Note to Mom: You were always so good about using a tablecloth for EVERY meal. I feel like a slacker that we use placemats sometimes and, more likely, a bare table for eating. Am I alone in this? Is my table complaining to other tables about being naked all of the time? Is it a generational thing? Are tablecloths for everyday use going the way of the butter churn? Is it a whole, “We have Lysol disinfecting wipes so who needs to cover a table?” sort of thinking amongst Moms my age? Or am I going to be flogged by the Proper Motherhood Society for neglecting the rules on table adornments and coverings? Maybe I should stop typing this post and write one about Spike’s new barnyard demands…]

Uh, like I was saying, I had put a lovely tablecloth out on the kitchen table and, after breakfast dishes were cleaned away, I kept our coins near the center of the table in front of our seats along with some cute snowman candleholders.

Beautiful holiday table, I thought, patting myself on the back a little more.

All morning and early afternoon the coins were there, perfectly fine and untouched. Then girls got home from school and Zoe and I started working together on a small computer project down in our office area of the basement. Riley stayed by us for a few minutes before slowly walking upstairs…

I think it was the sound of Maddie’s trinket hitting the floor that caught my attention. Running up the stairs, Zoe and I caught Riley in his “Oops, my bad!” position with the tablecloth nearly fully off the table and one last lonely chocolate coin on the floor near his front paw.

Those previously done pats on the back were now more like V-8 smacks to the head…

One of my friends is a certified dog trainer, so I know that Riley would need to eat a LOT of chocolate for him to get ill thanks for his size, so I wasn’t too worried about that. The girls still have lots of candy left over from Halloween, so even the loss to them wasn’t a huge deal. I even had to laugh at the fact that my choice to use the tablecloth assisted Riley in his nearly silent snacking. Nice use of tools, dog.

One other funny thing I had to chuckle about was thinking that Riley had helped make the Country Boy’s fortune cookie from the previous Saturday come true, just not in the way we had hoped or expected.

The fortune had said that he’d receive riches from unexpected places. This was very unexpected… see, the chocolate coins each were covered in gold foil. Instead of the goose that laid the golden egg, we had the dog that laid the golden poo for the next several days.

Lucky me.

Excuse me while I go Lysol my table since I need to rethink the whole tablecloth thing.

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Ho ho oh…

You’d think that I would have plenty of options. After all, I love taking pictures. It seems like it would be a given that I would have photos of the four of us (and maybe a few with four-legged friends included) that I could use in our Christmas card.

After all, I have a bazillion photos of the girls. Normal photos:


Silly photos:


Action shots:


We have pictures with the girls and I (no Country Boy):


The Country Boy with one or both of the girls:

archery lesson

We have pictures of the Country Boy with the mules riding on backcountry trails in Colorado.


There are even photos dog and the girls with the van, our family member who is no longer with us (may Oddy rest in peace…).

little love

But, when it comes to “family photos” we have basically four options.

“Hey,” you’re thinking, “four options are plenty! Look at the bright side! Stay positive! I am sure that one of those four would work beautifully for a holiday card.”

Maybe I am being too negative.

Maybe I DO need to look at the bright side – four is better than none. Still, you look at these photos and tell me which one you’d use to send Christmas love to your family and friends…

Happy Holidays

Understand my dilemma?

So if you don’t get a beautiful card with a gorgeous family photo this year, you’ll understand why. There was one option I had thought of as a holiday card given our situation. Not sure if it will work or not (I’ll have to hope that most won’t know elk antlers from reindeer racks) but here it is:


Really need to get a family photo done soon…

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Great Expectations

I blame Disney.

And the Cleavers. And maybe a little bit of the Brady Bunch.

The Partridge Family is in the clear…although every single one of them had good singing voices, so maybe I do blame them as well, because honestly, not one of them sung off key?!

The Huxtable and Keaton families should shoulder some blame as well.

I won’t even mention the Walton or Ingalls families. And yeah, Mom, if you’re reading this, I’ll hold you and Dad responsible as well for making family and married life seem way too easy.

Not that I thought it would all be blue birds singing on my windowsill (curse you Cinderella), or have issues all resolved neatly within 30 minutes. I knew it would be tough at times. And sloppy. I guess I thought I’d be better at spotting those darn expectations by know before they bit me in the…errr…backside.

Nope. Not quite.

The Country Boy has been away from the farm because of work more than normal, which was already more than most people. Factors – twisty roads, dead cell phone batteries, long days, a man that doesn’t exactly talk a whole lot to begin with – also had communications down even further. There are days when I feel like we step back to the world of the Cleavers when it comes to technology – no cellphone calls, texts, emails, video chats, etc. Just extended periods of time where all you can do is think of your beloved, hope they are safe, and hope they are thinking about you, too.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. It also makes me glamorize what life will be like when the one I love returns.

Here comes the weekend – a glorious, no prior commitments weekend. Cue the blue birds! Tell the fawns to get the bunnies and meet me in the pasture stat! It’s time for perfect harmony!

Not quite.

Those darn expectations creep in like spiders, and we all know how I feel about spiders….

Apparently, I think of weekends as time where whole farm responsibilities aren’t solely on my shoulders. Someone (a handsome, rugged, country man of a someone) else is there to help me out with animals, laundry, cooking, girls – and doing it all with humor, gorgeous smiles, and style. I’ll keep getting things done, but I’ll have others to help me do it while making my heart pitter-patter at the me time.

The Country Boy, god bless him, looks at weekends as a time to relax at home…and by relaxing I mean hunting, spending time with the mules, hanging out with us women, and get recharged for the next week.

The girls love weekends that are filled with time that is totally unstructured. Play with nativity sets, read, craft, whatever – as long as I keep meals fairly normal, they’re perfectly happy to spend hours chilling out with one another.

So, when something comes up unexpectedly that causes our subconscious expectations to clash, issues happen, and we come nowhere near how Ma and Pa Ingalls handled problems. (Trust me, “for shame, children” was not what came out of my mouth.)

The good news is that everyone got back to normal fairly quickly (maybe not Leave It To Beaver quick, but, golly gee, who can do that?). We continued on our weekend and got back into a groove of sorts.

Then Monday comes, my Country Boy is off, and I work hard to keep my expectations for next weekend in check.

Maybe I need to watch some “Married with Children” reruns this week so I can get some Al Bundy type expectations in my brain….

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And then the truth slaps you in the face

I talked about the “impending doom” on the horizon because Maddie started dotting her “i’s” with circles. Part of me hoped that maybe I was mistaken. Maybe circles for dots isn’t the sign for adolescence/teenage angst beginning after all. Maybe I was older when I used the circles for dots and this was just a fluke that she was using them at age 10. Then we unpacked our holiday stuff and,bam! There it is, plain as can be:


A plate I created when I was 10 with the tell tale marking present in the word Christmas. I did the smilie face derivation, but the indicators are all there that we are in for a heck of a roller coaster ride in the coming years. Bring out the egg nog. I’m going to need some extra holiday cheer….

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Gale force winds possible through this evening

It started around 5:10 am.

Cloudy skies and high winds.

By 7 am, the first rumbles of thunder could be detected.

It was chaos by 7:30. Lightening crashing, winds tossing things everywhere. Kids running for cover.

Things started to improve by 8. The winds calmed and the thunder stopped. The sun even started to peak out by 9.

Still, the dark clouds haven’t completely disappeared and there is that feeling in the air that havoc could breakout at any time.

If you are in Northeast Ohio today, you are totally confused by my weather forecast. To you, it has been an unbelievably beautiful fall day – plenty of sun, calm winds, unseasonably warm temperatures.

I didn’t say that I was talking about the weather outside. I was talking about my mood today.

Ever have one of those days when you just are crabby when you wake up without any real reason that you can pinpoint? A day when you just feel like you got a short fuse and there are open flames every where you look?  (If you said, “No, my life is just like Snow White – all blue birds tweeting and perfect pitch voice singing in the harmony with the world…” then I beg of you to please lie to me at this point…and I will remind you that there are plenty of us out there who can act like the evil queen sometimes so you best stay clear of us when necessary and go hang out in a cabin in the woods – just not the woods near our camp or I may find you there when I am being crabby, too.)

I am having one of those days. Just crabby from the moment I got out of bed.

I tried to shake myself out of it by going to Starbucks. I mean, if a Venti Non-fat Chai can’t break the storms then I’m really in trouble. It helped, but still could feel the storm clouds hanging around.

Tried getting some tasks done, with the thinking being that scratching stuff off the “to do” list would help. Eh, not so much.

Tried cleaning up the computer to make it run faster. Definitely wrong move. (Really, what was I thinking?)

Tried drinking a cold Coke. Helped recover a little after the computer moment, but still feel the rumbles.

Praying helped, especially this morning, but even God is taking cover (or, more likely, rolling His eyes at me).

I have to snap out of it. I have about an hour left before the post-school craziness begins and I can’t still be in this mood at that point. I could go for a run. I could take Riley for a good, long walk. I could eat that chocolate bunny that one of the girls has left over from Easter, still wrapped in foil (I wonder what is the shelf life on chocolate? Does it matter at this point?). I could sit in a cozy chair and read the book I got from the library.

Or I could sit here and figure out how I managed to delete the printer driver, eliminating my ability to print off the program I am working on for a meeting tomorrow morning.

The winds are starting to pick up. You may want to run for cover….

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The first step is acknowledgement

I will admit to a little bit of gross factor.

I will say that my “I’m turning into a country girl” bravado has taken a step back.

I will acknowledge that I will be thinking about more than just “Am I going to be able to make it all the way to the barn without tripping and dumping these two buckets of water all over me?” the next time I have to feed the mules.

I know that I should have thought of it before now.

I realize that I was in denial.

I understand that I need to use this as a teachable moment for the girls.


When the Country Boy asked me for some items so that he could remove a tick from an area that I would have thought was totally immune from tick issues, I felt like I need to get into the van and drive to the nearest Starbucks to immerse myself in city-ness.

Yes, he spent days in the woods hunting, but this little…um…now big guy probably wasn’t a Kentucky souvenir. That means that he got it since being home. And, considering I am the one spending more time in the barn and out on the farm these days, that means I am a fertile target for ticks.


Newest item on my Christmas list – a bubble suit that those haz-mat guys wear because I have to believe that if hazardous materials can’t get through, than it is tick proof.

Plus, the mules and the dog seem to be creating quite a bit of “hazardous materials” of their own that I always need to avoid…

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First signs of impending doom

Alright, maybe it isn’t “impending doom”.

Maybe I am overreacting.

Maybe I am being too dramatic. Or pessimistic.

Or maybe, just maybe, I am seeing the truth about what is looming on the horizon.

Or more accurately, REMEMBERING how I was at that age.

Because the changes, they are a happenin’.

It started several months ago when, no matter how low I put the car temperature, Maddie wanted it colder. She is hot. Constantly hot. Until it is so cold that she isn’t hot. But, once you warm the van up enough to feel your fingertips again, she’s complaining it is too hot. Zoe and I will need to wear bundles of clothing to stay comfortable while Maddie wears shorts and t-shirts this winter.

Then last week I noticed something that gave me pause. Maddie showed the universal sign of adolescent girls…

No, not boy band crazies.

No, not insistence on my walking ten paces behind her.

Not locking herself in her room for hours either, although all of those are good guesses.

The universal sign of a girl moving into adolescence is making any dots in writing (ie, the dot on a lower case i) into the shape of a circle.

Oh, come on. If you are a woman over the age of 20 you know you did that at some point in your transition from girl to woman. Every female in America goes through that phase. Some of us even would add a smilie face into those circles-for-dots. It’s OK to admit this. I did it. I remember all of my friends doing it, too. It was around the same time that I started to make the “J” in my name sort of a funky lower case thing, too. The funny thing is that even when I make my signature now, my J is more lower case than upper. Apparently there must still be part of me that operates at the level of a middle schooler.

(That’s enough snickering, family members. I can hear you all the way over here…)

So, the writing is on the wall. My cutie pie first born is about to transition through the time period where even the most angelic of children can turn into the spawn of satan at the blink of an eye.

Again, I speak from the memory of what my poor parents endured during my transition…and I think I was a fairly normal kid. I have a better understanding of why my parents insisted on going to church every week no matter what the weather/situation. They had roughly 18 years of one child or another going through some phase of this transition. They needed that church reinforcement to keep from strangling one or more of us. Again, reasons for immediate Sainthood for them by decree from Rome.

I got another glimpse of my future life yesterday while helping out at the school book fair. I needed to be there in the morning and the afternoon, so I thought I would have lunch with both girls during their lunch periods since that corresponded with my free time. There were points in their lives that the girls would absolutely LIGHT UP when they saw me waiting to eat with them. It would be like a special treat to be pulled over to the tables designated for parent/student lunches. I wouldn’t do it often, which made it even more of a big deal. I loved those times.

So, imagine my surprise when I was waiting for Maddie and she 1) didn’t stop and 2) when I caught up with her she said she would rather just eat at the class table.

Ugh. Rejected by my 5th grader. That inner middle-schooler in me (you know, the one who still signs her name with lower case J’s) was ready to go write in my diary and stare at posters of boy bands… Ok, not really. I did want to blog and listen to NPR, so maybe that’s my new adult version of rejection handling.

Impending doom? Maybe. Changes? No doubt.

I may need to go to church daily.

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