Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Freedom - A Photo Album

I won't get on any soapbox here, but with all the talk about immigration from both sides of the fence (or wall, as it were), my heart has been feeling tender.  I don't like my heart to feel tender when I write posts. because I am likely to say something out of deep emotion that triggers someone that I love to comment in defense of some toe I have stepped on.  

This isn't about that.  It's just about my heart.

I feel so grateful each fourth since 2013 when Natalie's and my life (lives? how do you say that?) were saved by amazing doctors and nurses, by prayer, by faith, by science and the time period and place we were lucky enough to be born in.

I'm grateful on the fourth because the month after Nano was born, on the fourth, I walked to see the fireworks with my family (though I had to get a ride back home).  I was still only halfway through the ordeal with my bloodclots, which would return twice more, and my pelvic veins were completely blocked, but I could walk, I had my leg, I had my baby, and I had my life.

I'm grateful because on the following fourth, I ran in my first ever 5K.  I came in 14 million and twelfth.  I was awesome.  Moms pushing double-strollers were passing me, but I did it.

The next two years blurred into that blissful place of New Normal; not what they once were, but certainly not what they could have been.

And this year, as I sat with my family, a new feeling of gratitude arrived.  I am grateful that my children are safe and protected in this place I am blessed to live.  They have food security and all the simple things in life that make the difference between peace and worry, even if those things are humble at times.  They are as safe as I can make them from a world that would take them and hurt them; that would take away their childhoods and replace them with fear and trauma and distrust forever.

I am so grateful to live here.  With all it's flaws and struggles to get it right for EVERYONE, which I hope we will ever be working towards, I can acknowledge the good while holding hope for a less troubled future for this country that I love.

We are blessed.

*****



My little peanut, always full of her own kind of fireworks!




Hmmm, something just doesn't quite look right here...




There, that's better!



We call this his "Flynn Ryder" (look it up).



This is the year she has changed the most.



He usually shys away from my camera, 
but so far, not from the offer to snuggle.



Snuggles for everyone!



It's getting dark! 
The fireworks take forever to start when you are five.



But once they do, you can almost touch them!



Natalie danced to the music the ENTIRE time. 
She started out plugging her ears, but by the end,
 she was more fun to watch than the fireworks!

*****

In Amador county, the Fourth is so fun they start on the third! 
That leaves the Fourth for family time and play, the whole day.


We always reach out to Dr. F 
on the Fourth because it is also his birthday
(though I spelled his name wrong, whoops!). 
One more reason to be grateful!



Tessa and Big Ellie fought over Erin's Baby Ellie all evening.



Bill and Syndi Dyer bring a spark of joy with them 
(which is good, because it's the only sparking we can have in the woods!)



Dad joined us, and where dad is, there is Penny!  So fun to have him here.
And Erin was joined later by her hubby, who we seldom get to see
 as he works protecting our state from wildfire.  More gratitude.



This could be a Normal Rockwell painting!



Jonah planned a water balloon fight, and everyone loved it.



After it was over, there was a water-balloon-picking-up-contest. 
 The winner got a baggie of nickles!  Congrats Aeron!
(best dollar I ever spent!)



As is our family tradition, we watched The Music Man once the sun went down, only this time we did it projected on the garage on a sheet.  Those who could stay had a ball.



 It was chilly, so everyone bundled up for the show.
This was the only picture I got of Bonnie and Peter... and the Uhri's evaded my camera this time as well.  I need to be a better photographer next time. Ethan now lives in Sacramento and decided to hang out there for the Fourth.  My kids they is growin' up!

Can't wait till next year!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Day of Ten Thousand Ladybugs


Each summer when we were kids, my folks would drive the two-hour, switch-back road to Palomar Mountain in Southern California to take us camping.  We would hike the trail in the woods, rounding the bend to the Belly Button Tree, past the Hand Tree, and then through the meadow to the pompous grass Hippy Huts by the footbridge.  Beyond that was The Dark Forest, that we kids thought was a little creepy, so we would usually turn around at that point.  One summer as we headed back through the meadow, we discovered clumps of tall grasses covered with ladybugs.  At their bases, there were hundreds of them.  I remember my dad reaching into a clump and scooping up a hand completely full of lovely crimson buttons.  He filled two or three canning jars full, and we brought them home to spread on our organic garden.  My parents raised honey bees, and had the biggest compost pile you've ever seen.  Those little ladybugs would have been right at home, had they not immediately marched themselves right over the garden fence and into our neighbor's yard.  That neighbor bragged all summer about his ladybug luck.

*****

Last year there was one day when we noticed an abundance of ladybugs had suddenly shown up on our property.  We were surprised to see dozens of them flying in the sky and perhaps over a hundred landing on the shady side of the house in the late afternoon.  It was all over by the next day, but it had been a delight.

Well, let me tell you... that was NOTHIN'!

A few weeks ago we noticed little flashes of golden light zipping past our second-story dinning room window.  I went to look and was excited to announce to the house, "The ladybugs are back!"  I stood admiring them for a few minutes and then went about my single morning chore of being the ruthless taskmaster that my poor, pitiful, overworked children believe me to be.


Several hours later I chanced past the window again and caught my breath.  A super-highway of little red and black darlings sped through the blue sky above; hundreds upon hundreds of specks, wings glowing in the sunlight, zipping back and forth in a steady, almost calm stream.  I went outside and called Guy to join me on the porch.  There was something so reverent in that moment, I felt compelled to whisper as we stood on the shady porch watching caravans of hundreds of ladybugs march in meandering lines up the eaves toward the rooftop.  All the while thousands of ladybugs spun around us in the air in utter silence.  It felt like a precious dance, or like watching a sleeping newborn.  It felt like praying.

I went to my dad's apartment downstairs and found him sitting in his living room in front of the open doorway.

"I've never seen so many bees," he said in wonder, his beekeeper days surely fresh in his mind.

"They're not bees... they're ladybugs!" I whispered.

I beckoned him outside and took him to the front of the house, the North side, where their display was most impressive.  We stood on the porch giggling and gazing skyward with sparkling eyes.  The ladybugs landed on us here and there, and then left quickly.  They had somewhere to be.  Jonah and Nano joined us and with timid excitement tried to get the ladybugs to climb on their fingers, but the busy bugs were on a quest, and were not interested in exploring little hands.

If you look closely, you'll see twenty or so above my dad's head.

We stayed outside for a good long while, noticing how the aerial commute seemed to mostly be heading South, over the house, across our little meadow and off, into the woods.  Dad and I chatted about Palomar, and his unlucky ladybug day.  "I've learned since that you have to give them protein so they'll stay," he said.  Dad always knows things like that.  Then he excused himself to go back downstairs, and I headed off into the house, deciding I would check on the ladybugs again in a little while.

I got busy and when, a few hours later, I thought to look out the window again, they were gone.  Nearly all of them.  Their mass exodus, that black-spotted, red cloaked migration, had moved on, into the woods, or maybe out into the big world somewhere.

That night I went online and learned that when the ladybugs come out of hibernation, they are on a single-mined quest to mate and get on their way to parts unknown.  They leave and spread out across the countryside, traveling massive distances to lay their little eggs and then live out their lives, out there, somewhere, never to return.

The real magic is that their children, who have never before been to the place where they were conceived, will travel untold miles to arrive right back...here.  They will collect here this fall by the tens of thousands, to live the quiet dance all again.

And I'll be waiting for them.

With protein.




Monday, June 25, 2018

The Glimmer




Jackie, my sweet, kind guru and friend, said that I need to share this.  So I will.  It's a little tricky, you see, because I try to keep my kid's privacy to some degree.  I have never shared some big giant moments that would have made for some hefty reading, because they were too tender or personal for my kids.  Guy says that these experiences I have with my kiddos are mine as well, and thinks I have the right to share them, which creates a bit of a conundrum.  So, I will tiptoe carefully through my story.  I'll do it for Jackie.  And maybe for you, too.
*****

When gentle Adam was about four, he decided to throw his FIRST EVER temper tantrum.  He had a great teacher in his older brother, and I suppose he figured he'd try it on for size. It surprised us both.  With a mock look of surprise on my face, I jokingly made an impassioned plea, "Who are you!?!  And what have you done with my little boy, Adam?!?!"  

As quickly as it had come, the tantrum melted away, and with eyes brimming with tears, Adam passionately replied, "It's me, Mama!  I'm right here!"  It was the last time Adam ever went away.

*****

About six months ago, the sweet 15 year old with long dark hair and sky blue eyes who lives here left our house, and a girl who looks exactly like her came to visit.  The new girl only stayed for a day, but it was not a fun day.  At the end of that particular day, and after one especially unpleasant exchange, she exercised her ocular rotational skills, tested the structural integrity of the floor boards on the stairs, and then practiced her percussive fortitude on the bedroom door.

About five minutes later my real daughter (having magically returned) came out of that room, walked straight to me and burst into tears.  "I'm sorry, Mom!  That was just ridiculous!  I can't believe I acted like that!"

She meant it, too.  She wept and hugged me, and we talked for a long time about stuff.  It was good.  Really good.  But slowly and surely, that other girl, that one with the stompy feet, moved back in.  To stay.

Mostly, now, she practices deep breathing... make that, deep exhalation.  Responses to parental requests these days are... well, let's call them spicy.  Oh, and the one eyebrow lift!  She's gotten really good at that.  She generously cools us with her frustrated hair flips, and for some reason when I speak to her, several times a day her head drops back abruptly to set her gaze irksomely at the ceiling.  I've looked.  I don't see anything up there.

Being the mother of a teenage girl has truly become everything I was told to expect by the mothers of former-teenage-girls in my life.  Good times.  Good times.

So, the other day I asked the long-term-impostor-teenage girl for a few words.  Barely had I begun to get those few words out, reminding her of the time her clone had sweetly apologized for "being ridiculous", when she abruptly broke in. "I know... I am so sorry," her voice trembled as she began to cry.  "I was awful to you about that history assignment yesterday, and I wanted to say sorry, but Dad was right there and I felt awkward.  I've been just awful all the time lately, to everybody!  And I don't even know why!!!"

I held her in my arms and she wept.  We talked - that same mom-daughter stuff that is so important at the time, the words of which you can't remember later.  But even in that moment, God whispered back to me the lessons of 21 years of mothering...

He reminded me that the day when Adam left and came right back was a fluke, and of times in the past when, with others of my children, I had a special moment like this one, and thought, "Yay!  The light at the end of the tunnel!  We are almost out of the deep, dark, obnoxious woods!  Hello, sanity!  Welcome back, child,  I've missed you!" only to see them vanish again.

Instead, God told me that this was The Glimmer.  The one that says, "Remember that darling baby, the one that your body grew, the one that lived off of your flesh and then your milk for endless months?  That tiny human that you cleaned and rocked, that covered you in pee and poo and gallons of vomit, and every excrement known to motherhood?  Remember that little being whose tiny smile lit your world like a thousand suns, and for whom you were the universe? Whose sweet voice brought more joy than you'd ever known before? Who toddled joyfully into your arms for comfort from pain or fear, or just to be near you? That precious child that you would have given, done, lived and fought and sacrificed anything for?...

"She's still in there.  She's not back yet, but she will be, someday.  She's in there.  That person you adore, who actually, truly does love you.  Enjoy this tiny moment.  She's not here to stay, but she's in there."


It's me, Mama.  I'm right here.


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Don't Wait Until Dark



We just passed the year mark of having moved into this house, and I have been waiting to climb to the lookout.  Not waiting as in, "I can't wait, get the sunblock and repellent!", more like, "Um, yah, that sounds like fun, but maybe after I finish cleaning..." (bwahahaha!  Has any mother ever finished cleaning?).  The kids said it was an easy hike, except for the parts that are hard, but that's just at the beginning and a little in the middle, and the pine needles are a bit slippery, but you can just slide down on your butt.  That was a motivating little pep talk.  While we're at it, why don't we get a root canal?

But with the weather warming, the sun hanging around past dinner time, and with it having been a whole year without my ever having gone, I had run out of excuses.  So, one recent evening I asked Guy if he'd like to go on a walk with me.  He was what I call happy-hesitant.  Guy has to "buffer" for a little bit before he can shift gears and add something unplanned to the day.  When he was finished buffering, we threw on shoes and sweaters and set out ambitiously on "a family walk"; Guy and I, Tessa, Jonah and little Nano, the other kids being off on adventures of their own.


We walked the old pioneer road just on the other side of the creek, and when we hit the trail head where it departs from the road, I stood at the bottom of a rather steep incline with a little trepidation.  I have an old-for-me condition (back in the day it was called condromalacia, which, in Latin means "Crunchy, Owie Knees".  My doctor informs me the diagnosis has changed.  The crunching has not).  This crazy three story tree house, with my dad's place and the laundry at the bottom, and our bedroom at the top, has woken up a sleeping dragon, and my bendy-bits are starting to really complain at me, and I have never quite gotten my balance back since the blood clots.

But I HATE being dictated to by crabby body parts.  "Let's do it!" I told the gang, and started charging up the slope.  (And by charging, I mean carefully picking my way up the pine-needle covered hill).  My sweetie, who usually does things at his own pace, chose to hang close to me, his hand often reaching for my lower back to steady me on the steeper parts of the trail.  I have to say, though I am an independent chick, feeling his protective hand on my back was my very favorite part of the hike.


After the initial billy-goating up a pretty gnarly incline (ask Natalie, it was Everest.  She even stopped trotting a few times), things leveled out a skoach, and the walk was lovely.  The path widened to a fire road, and we easily made our way up the last rise.  We reached the crest of the hill in only about 20 minutes and the view that awaited us there was glorious.


The hills in every direction were awash with dusky pastels; pinks and blues and grey-greens.  It was stunning.  We could not only see Jackson, Sutter Creek, and further off, Ione, we could even see the tall buildings of Downtown Sacramento, well over an hour away.  The Littles gathered wildflowers in small mounds, free to pick as many as they liked, while Guy and I pointed out familiar sights from our surprising new vantage point.  Soon, the sun began it's slow but steady dip below the horizon, the deep pumpkin colored orb creeping away behind a low purple cloud that hugged the horizon, until it went from a slice, to a sliver, to a vanishing glowing speck.  We paused for a comforting breath and sigh, and then sort of reverently gathered ourselves, our wild flowers and walking sticks, and headed for the trail.




As we headed back down the trail, I was surprised at how suddenly the path had dimmed.  Guy and I pretended we were sure we would get back before dark, just to extend the children's fading bravery a few minutes more.  But it was a farce.  Before we were halfway home, we were struggling, and by the time we could see the distant lights of our windows across the creek, we could no longer see our own feet.  Jonah and Natalie went from questions, to whimpers, to tears.  I started to sing silly songs, and it helped for a bit, until Guy mentioned a little too loudly that because of the dark he maybe wasn't quite sure of the way to the shrub-encrusted path across the creek.  Tears became morose wails that we were NEVER going to find out way home, EVER, and we were for SURE going to be lost in the woods all night, and maybe get gobbled up by a bear and diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiie! 

The moon began to come over the ridge, and though only a quarter, threw just enough light to completely freak the kidlets out, and we were still a ways from the house.  I tried to convince them that the moon was kindly lighting our way, and look!  We could see our own shadows!

More wails!

"It's scary!  I hate this!  Are there bears?"

Tess, much to the relief of all, finally located the hidden trail leading to the house.  Jonah bellowed that he was NEVER going to hike to the lookout again...ever!  We stumbled down the hillside and bumbled across the creek.  The last 100 yards before the house, it's path well worn by the kids own feet, gave The Little's the security to open up and tell us how they REALLY felt.  I'll spare you.

I'll admit that the house felt very warm and inviting when we opened the door.  I sat with Jonah boy and Nano on the couch and listened to the epic story of our near demise.  Then I got up to make quesadillas and cocoa, which heals all wounds.

*****

I wish I could say the rest of the night got better. 
 Not so much.  
Other stuff happened that night that is unblogable, 
and some things can't be fixed with cocoa and cheese, but that's parenting.






Friday, May 18, 2018

It's Personal


Tonight we made our last journey through the swiftly shifting springtime-green turning summer-gold hills, on our way home from Adam's last track meet.  I know I have posted a lot about these meets, but there is something sort of sad and sweet about the whole thing, and it steps me away from my daily chores of cooking and laundry, and makes me sit still and focus very hard on just one thing; this child.  Even if only for a few seconds.

Adam is the first of our 3 oldest, very introverted children to step out of the shadows for the sake of a thrill, despite the necessary annoyance of a crowd.  A few years back he told us that he doesn't actually like running...he likes winning!  I was blown away by the news.  Who would work for all of those hours, week-in and week-out, for that chance, at the risk of a fall, injury and a tenth-of-a-second defeat?  I have rolled it around in my mind a dozen ways, but it still doesn't compute.

In fact, there is one aspect that I have never understood about runners, or anyone who competes in a sport where one tenth - or one one-hundredth, no less - of a second could mean the difference between success and the loss of a dream.  When I make art, I spend as much time as I need, as much as it takes, to get the end result that I want (or until I'm sick of it and hide it in a cupboard).  In some cases (embarrassingly) that has taken years.  But once the art is done, I know... I KNOW... exactly what I am getting.  Even when I sing in front of an audience, I get about 3 minutes to try to squeak out my best effort.  If it were up to a dozen or so seconds of my performance, right next to 7 other singers singing their hearts out... well, my comparison is falling apart here, but you get the idea.  Imagine, everything you care about, all that you've worked for, coming down to a few moments in time.

This race, though, was different.  It was .18 seconds different, but not in the way that wins any medals.  As Adam crossed the finish line in 6th place, passing a boy who, were it not for the fact that he lay on the ground, would have pushed Adam to 7th, my usual chant of "Go son!  First place!" was replaced with "Not last!  Please not last!"  He crossed the finish with two others in tow, and then turned to look at the timing board. 

"Hands in the air!"  Ellie cheered, "That means he PR-ed!"

Translation:  Adam has two moves after he crosses the finish line.  The first is his reaction to his placing, smiles, maybe a jump or a high-five, perhaps a head hung low.  The second is reserved for the special moment when he sees that he has achieved his PR, his Personal Record, the very best he has ever done.

And tonight, that was 16.77 seconds.
And he is joyful
and proud, 
and we are so happy for him.
Because you can't be disappointed when you have done
 your hands-in-the-air, 
very best.


And the bottom line is, out of all the kids at 43 schools from 20 counties, 
my kid was SIXTH.

That means, in the zombie apocalypse,
 Adam will DEFINITELY be just fine.  

*****

(Ellie made Adam a cookie bouquet, 
because that is what awesome sisters do
for a brother who could outrun a zombie horde.)



Friday, May 11, 2018

A Handful of Pearls


Adam did his very, very best.  
His best took second place in both his events.
During warm ups we had noticed that Adam wasn't out there doing drills.  I told Guy he seemed subdued.  It turns out he was nursing a pulled muscle and was in pain.  

Ice, arnica, pain relief gel. 
Rest
 and then race.

He didn't mind the first "second place"; it was more or less expected.  
That 110 guy was lightning fast, and a humble-ish winner. 

 But the second race,
 *sigh*,
 and Thor;
his gloating, drop-to-the-ground victory celebration, 
 and the pulled muscle...

The second "second" killed him.

After Guy and I got home at the end of this very long day, we talked about how Adam has been all season.  Really, almost every race in high school track experience, but especially this year, baring "the fall", he has been in first place.  But as far as the league is concerned, 
a second today means Second. Period.

As we talked about Adam's string of wins over the last five years, sprinkled with a scant few losses, it reminded me of a string of natural pearls.  Pearls are not perfect.  Some are more lovely than others.  Even within the same oyster, one pearl may be nearly flawless, while another nearby is merely simple and even unimpressive.  They are only compared to one another when placed side by side, and the line up is usually somewhat arbitrary.  What if they were cut from the string, and held in a cupped hand, all together in no certain order?  In that hand, those most beautiful, flawless ones are glorious, simply because they are.

*****

Isn't it interesting how we look at life so linearly.  We take each win or loss in the order they are fed to us by the conveyor belt of life.  Isn't it sad that, if after a string of mostly successes, we are not quite able to quite reach that high once more in the final moments, we feel we have failed?

I was blessed to learn the gift of taking life out of line when little Nano was born.  As a childbirth doula who has valued the gift of natural birth very highly, it was beyond challenging, after a cesarean and four home births, to have endured another cesarean under general anesthesia.  Me, - the woman who put all of her energy into making sure a mother's birth was the sacred experience she desired, that the first precious bonding moments between her and her newborn were always private and uninterrupted-  I was unconscious for the first half hour of Natalie's life.  My most idyllic birth, ironically, was Adam's.  My second. Talk about out of order.

It took some time before I realized this simple truth.  We own all of our lessons; all of our joys, all of our losses, and all of our victories, no matter what order they come in. 

***** 
Adam came home a bit ago, and I was surprised by the lilt in his step.  When we asked him how he was doing, his answer came simple and pure.

"I'm good, I'm really good."

We talked for almost an hour, and learned that Thor is suspected of cheating, but since it was not seen by officials, he was not disqualified.  Instead of being disappointed, Adam felt better.  He said, "Its like you and Dad said, I did my very best, and I ran a clean, honest race."
No regrets.

He sees his achievements, his hard work and dedication, and the value of each on their own merits.  He is proud of his work ethic, and glad for the friends he has made and the coaches who have taught him so much.  When he looks back, he sees all the good, even in the losses.

A beautiful handful of pearls.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The dude can fly


This amazing boy is so dedicated, so focused, so... fast.  It's not just because he's my boy.  I mean, he is, and I am as proud as a mama could be, but also... this dude can FLY! 

Earlier this season Adam took a misstep.  It started in the first race when he felt like he could have pushed harder, could have given it just that much more.  So in his second race he pulled out all the stops.  ALL OF THEM.  The 300 hurdles race is 3/4 of a lap, with 8 hurdles spread along the track.  Adam had a lead over the next two runners, but not by much.  As he flew at the last hurdle with all he had, something made him leap just a moment too soon, and with that early jump came an early landing, just inches before he cleared the hurdle.  His leg came down against the hurdle, and he entangled for a moment in it before spilling over the top and pounding into the ground.  He rolled on the ground just feet away from the finish line, and, as the runners just behind him overtook first and second place, Adam saw how close he was to the line.  He rolled again, crossing the finish line on the ground, in a very disappointing third place.  The fourth place runner had to literally jump one more hurdle; Adam. I burst into mother-tears.

And with that, Adam lost to his rival, a boy we call Thor, due to his Superhero-like looks and long blond hair.  Thor gloated in an over-the-top celebration dance, only feet away from where Adam still lay on the ground.  Guy was a timer on the finish line, and ran to make sure Adam was not badly hurt.  Adam caught his breath bent over, then stood and accepted a hug from his dad, which brought out his own tears, but I think that only his dad and I knew.  To those outside that embrace, it might just have looked like loving support.

Adam came to me next, at my trusty post by the fence at the finish line.  He slumped himself into my arms, and with a trembling voice, said, "I had it, Mom.  It was mine, and I blew it."  My heart broke a thousand times.

He approached the next race with trepidation.  The fall had gotten under his skin, and it showed in a second-place finish.  Over the next few weeks, he gained back his confidence and worked on his weaknesses, and took several first place wins in his two events.  Which brings us to yesterday. 

Yesterday Adam ran in the league trials and took first place in the 300 and second in the 110 (not a disappointment, because the boy who took first has rockets for feet).  But his greatest thrill was the fact that the boy who took second in the 300 was none other than Thor.

*****

Finals are tomorrow.  
Adam will be going up against Thor 
at least one more time.

Let's hope he can fly.


Saturday, May 5, 2018

A Simple Means of Disposal


A note to my readers:  Today you will fall into two camps; The "I-Nevers" and the "We Had One of Those".  Hence, this post will be received in two COMPLETELY different frameworks.  You I-Nevers (of which I am, also) will be shocked and appalled.  Disgusted, perhaps.  You W.H.O.O.T.s (We Had One of Those) will think I am making a mountain out of a slightly smelly molehill.  You will try to tell me not to worry.  You will say YOU never had any problems with yours  (Oh, but wait! a whole bunch MORE of you will say you did have trouble once in a while.  Which is it, people?!)

So here we go.

Once upon a time, cave men decided pooping in their cave was not especially lovely.  Maybe it was the smell, maybe the flies, maybe seeing little Tronk Jr. walking around with a cave-truffle in his fist was losing it's charm.  In any case, one day a cave mom, we'll call her Grunka, said, "From now on, everybody poops outside!"  Of course, to Tronk and Tronk Jr, that meant 2 feet from the cave entrance.  Grunka then clarified, "Away from the cave.  And for good measure, bury it!"

Fast forward several million years, when Somebody said, "I know what we can do with all the poop! Let's bury a big tank just upwind of the house.  It won't hold much, but that's okay, we will count on the magic of nature to "break down" the "solids"  (read "eat" and "poop").  And then once every few years someone will come along and suck the muck out of the thing.  Done and Done.  It will be awesome."

Somebody's Wife said, "Fine for the "solids", but if I do laundry, wash dishes and bathe a few kids, that thing is gonna overflow."

"Not to worry!"  said Somebody, "That's all part of the plan!  See, we'll get these LOOOONG pipes with holes all up and down them, and we will bury them in the ground!  The "excess liquid" will just drain off under the yard underground."

Somebody's Wife looked skeptical.  Um, is he really saying we let the poo-water drain off into the yard?  she asked herself.  Under the yard, he would have corrected.  Same difference, she would have grimaced.

There was some ridiculous blah-blah about microorganisms cleaning the runoff up before it heads out into the world.  But all she hears is "underground poo-water pond".

And thus, my dear I-Nevers, was born what is still known today as "The Septic System".  You can describe it in fancier terms, and produce all the science to explain why burying a poop-tank in the yard works well, and why draining poo-water into the yard is not problematic, but all I hear is cave-man talk.

*****
When we were looking at this house as potential buyers, I didn't bat an eye when they said the house had a "septic system".  I had heard those words my whole life, and it was like the ol' grocery store choice of paper or plastic; baring any ethical concerns, it's just a different way of doing things.

Well, it gets a little more involved once you become the proud owner of a subterranean poop-tank. First, you can't see it, because some bozo BURIED IT.  You get a little hand drawn map of where it supposedly is, more-or-less, kinda-sorta located.  Because everyone knows that approximations are the hall mark of excellent planning.

Then you go online to learn about it.

First, you learn that though a poop-tank only needs to be pumped out every 3-5 years with "normal" use.  Not bad I guess, til you stumble on a chart that says, oh, no darling, not 3-5 years!  You are a family of  nine, so try every 14 months.

Next, you learn that you have to budget your water usage.  Yes, the little germ-ies like to eat the fecal nibblets that come down the pike, but they can only handle so much water at a time.  Yes, ma'ams and sirs, they get full tummies.  Too much water (even the nice sort-of clean stuff like laundry and shower water) can overwhelm the system and stop the process, causing it to... GUM UP WITH BLACK SLIME!  In other words, poo-water stays poo-water.  AAAANNNNDDD... if the "Leach Field" (that's the underground poo-water pond) gets overwhelmed, the water begins to surface, converting the field into a poo-water marsh.  Good times.

(Que peppy music:)

Time for a little math lesson!...
9 people x 1-10 minute shower each at 2 gallons a minute = 180 gallons of water
2 loads of laundry a day at 13 gallons of water per load = 26 gallons of water
2 loads of dishes at 4 gallons a load, plus another 2 gallons for rinsing = 10 gallons of water
9 pairs of hands being washed (hopefully!) after every potty break, averaging 6 visits per day = 13+ gallons of water
54 potty daily breaks at 4 gallons a flush with these old toilets = 216 gallons
Food prep and sundry uses, I don't know, maybe 5-10 gallons a day?

That's about 450 gallons of water a day, folks!!!!

Now, we are gross, so I only bathe the Littles about twice (which means once) a week or when they are crusty, and in the summer let the creek do the rest.  A few of us don't shower EVERY day, and one or two un-named souls have to be forced into the shower at gunpoint, BUT, those who do shower seldom keep it under 10 minutes.  So knock the shower number in half, that still puts us in the range of 350 gallons a day.

 Last, and my absolute most favorite, we read that the Leach Field must be kept clear of vegetation.  Roots can go down and crawl through the holes in the pipes, blocking them up (OR the black slime can also clog it in reaction to the roots; which is great cuz' it's always nice to have more than one choice for how your system will fail).  The awesome water, upon reaching the pipes and finding them impassable, decides to call it a day and head back home, YOUR home.  It finds the lowest toilet, tub or shower, and creates a whole new marsh, right there, in your house.  That's right.  Poo-Water-Opolis.

*****
We are blessed with awesome friends who do not want us to have a bog in our yard, much less the whole downstairs.  In the fall, sweet and hard working Kathy and Wayne came with junior workers in tow to help us clear the leach field.  Clearing a leach field means removing about 60 trees and a dozen holly bushes (think spiky and stubborn), sizes Charlie-Brown-Tree to Smack-You-In-The-Face tall.  They are awesome, we  are grateful, and hopefully,

hopefully...

our poo water will never decide
 to come back home.





Saturday, April 28, 2018

Affiliation

Y.S. Eco Bee FarmsPropolis 1000
You might notice that for the first time in 9 years I have placed ads on my blog.  In an effort to help my family financially, I am bravely stepping out into the internet to explore the possibilities of doing what I love and having it help fill our needs by adding a few affiliate ads.  Any purchase made by folks who click on a link on my blog will earn a little commission for my family.  Not too shabby.

I tried this once before, several years back, when monetizing first became a thing.  I set up my links and excitedly went back to my home page to view the new look.  But the ads that had been posted were of products I don't support or use, and would never endorse.  It was the shortest lived ad campaign ever.  I deleted the ad widget immediately.

Things have changed.  I can now choose the exact products that I myself use and totally trust.  You will see our family's favorite herbs, children's products and other items I have ordered and loved.  Many will be from Amazon because since moving to the boondocks, Amazon has become a lifeline... our very own supply-plane-on-the-Alaskan-fronteer ("De plen! De plen!"), our personal Wells Fargo Wagon ("Yesth it could be...sthomthin' sthpecial, justh for me!!!").  Also, chocolate by mail, am I right?

I hope those few dear readers that I have (you know who you are; the ones who click on my new post within minutes of my having posted it) will not feel betrayed or disappointed.  It's a brave new world, and I need to find a way to work from home.  I'll tell you briefly what I like about some of the products now and then.  So, tune out here, if you like!
****
  So I often share my love of honey bee propolis with my friends.  I use YS Organics Bee Propolis.  Bees create and coat the inside of their hive with this "bee glue" to combat viral, fungal and bacterial growth.  I know bee products like pollen, propolis and honey are being used in other countries to prevent diabetic amputations, and to fight anti-biotic resistant bacteria.  A good start already.

I was born with Gilbert's Syndrome, which makes my bilirubin count high and my immunity low.  I get sick a lot, or used to.  One day when we were all dying of the black plague, I called my midwife to warn her.  "No biggie, I'll just load up on my propolis."  She said.  She taught me about it, and I tried it.  I counted each time I began to feel yucky and then subsequently did not have to take to my sickbed for a week.  After 17 illnesses were skipped, I quit counting, convinced that - for me, at least - this stuff worked.

*SCARY DON'T-SUE-ME DISCLAIMER*  I am no doctor, so  IF you decide to try it, use with caution, follow directions and don't use if you allergic to bees.

I like to take mine with some zinc and vitamin C.  I call it my Magic Elixir.

*****

That wasn't so bad, was it?  This ad thing will be an experiment.  If I don't like it, I will stop again.  Also, if I become ridiculously wealthy and loose my earthy connection to my poor Irish roots, then of course, full stop.  We can't let that happen.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Yes, We're Open!

The very first time we drove down the winding lane and the long, tree shrouded driveway that led to our someday-house, it was only to see if the commute for Guy would be tolerable, if the house was too far away from civilization, and if we could even "see" ourselves living there.  It was late, after sunset, and the wooded lane was sinking into darkness.  Natalie wept, "Dis is scawy, I don't yike it here."  The little voice in my heart-head that protects my children from all harm decided right then and there, if this place scares my baby, we can't possibly consider it.

But somehow that first of first impressions disappeared when I saw the place in the daylight; green slopes and mossy boulders, pines and oaks and deer trails. As possibilities solidified into plans, we began telling people about our new house and I found myself saying, "Well, it's an hour away from Sac, in the woods, but we can be to Walgreens in 20 minutes, and to the nearest little market in about five."  I had to prove to myself, by way of convincing others, that moving this far away from what was familiar was somehow a safe and, dare I say, good idea.  It's like pretending to enjoy green beans so your kid'll try 'em; oldest trick in the book, in reverse.

One of my big worries was that there would be nothing to do here once we settled in.  I pictured Little House on the Prairie, listenin' to Pa' play the fiddle on Saturday nights.  I was looking at harmonicas and wool long-johns on Amazon, and whittling tutorials on Youtube. 
Boy, was I wrong.

I am just amazed at how much happens here.  I think when we lived in the city, we were so surrounded by hustle and bustle that it felt busy.  Sure, we did an occasional gallery hop, or attended a summer concert in the park, but since moving here we have enjoyed so many new experiences.  Small town life is slower, it's true, but it takes itself seriously, and folks are dedicated to their hometown pride in a new and unexpected way.  Shop keepers tell you about their secret swimming hole ("Shhh, don't tell anyone.  This is for locals only," the owner of the antique store had said.  *GRIN*, she called us locals!), neighbors wave as they drive by, and yes, some places will even offer to carry a tab for you.  There are parades of all sorts, and car shows, and craft fairs, and golly, Winthrop, sometimes I feel like I'm in The Music Man.  No joke.

One of our new explorations has been to pick a town (there are about 10 in the area) and stroll the main street (not on Monday... or Tuesday... or sometimes-but-not-always Wednesday, and certainly not after 5pm, or 4 maybe.  Or lunchtime...)

...and wander through shops.  We don't make a day of it, doing a whole street in one go.  We just do a few shops at a time.  Ancient hand-hewn stone buildings that used to be banks or jails are now antique stores or boutiques.  One Monday (oops, we hadn't got the No Mondays memo yet) we took the kids to Jackson to wander down main street, a particular gem/bone/Native American shop in mind, only to find it closed, of course.  Wandering along we looked through picture windows and remarked, "Wow, cool!  We'll have to try to come back to this one..."

I whispered to Guy that I knew there was a candy shop down the way a bit.  He gave me a nod, and we headed there in hopes of an OPEN sign. 

Yay!  Bless you, Train Town Candies!


We told the kids they could get an ice cream or a bit of (slightly pricy though worth it for the ambiance) candy.  It was hard to choose!



The shop keeper told us that this used to be a toy store, specializing in wooden trains, balsa-wood plane kits and other unusual toys and puzzles.  He has every kind of cookie cutter you could possibly Ever Need.  But once the Walmart moved in a few miles up the road, he almost went out of business.  He and his family began making fudge and selling candy to try to stay afloat.  It must be working.  I've been in there three times since our first visit, and there is always a little crowd.


Well, a big crowd, if you include us!


The big boys, busy with big-boy responsibilities, don't usually join us in our wanderings.  I wish they would.  I love marching into a store with all six of my kiddos.

*****  

I told Guy the other day that I am really starting to like it here.  It only took a year.  To be fair though, my new responsibilities have taken time to get the hang of.  Just like an old train, I started out slow and took a while to get my rhythm.  

I think I can.

I think I can.



Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What makes me smile


This.

This makes me smile.

Every stinkin' time.

I don't get excited about a whole lot of technology.  Most of the stuff the kids use kinda' bugs me.  But this here weirdo filter smacks a smile on my pout almost as wide as, well, Ellie's.

It's on my phone's home screen.  
It makes me giggle right out loud sometimes. 
 Out of nowhere.  
I turn on my phone and just...
well...

 look at it! 
Tell me you're not smiling!


*****
Are you a naturally happy person?  I'm not.

  I guess there is fruit that is naturally sweet and other that is just super healthy.  And then there are lemons.  And bread fruit.  Oh, and durian.  I'm not that bad (If you've never had durian, just rub your hand in your armpit and then lick it.  That, my friends, just tasted better than durian).

I'm not sour, really, or nasty.  Bland, maybe.  

One day on my mission my companion and I were walking FOR-E-VAH on a long country road in the Costa Rica heat.  Our supposed destination was much further than we had been lead to believe, and this was back in the day before everyone carried a designer rain barrel full of water everywhere.  

We were parched!  No, way more dry than that.  Crazy dry.  Sahara-mirage-in-the-dessert dry.  Just before the hallucinations set in, we saw a grove of huge trees hanging with some sort of giant citrus fruit.  They were a glowing yellow, and as big as a grapefruit.  We didn't know what they were, and we didn't care.  We ran to the trees and grabbed a low-hanging potential-water-bomb.

I ripped into the flesh with my nails and was blasted by the most intense lemon smell I'd ever experienced.  My dry mouth pointlessly tried watering, but those weird "sour sensors" in the back of my jaw, you know, the ones that make you cringe when you see a baby suck on a pickle (the ones that are tingling right now as you read this), wouldn't give my throat the satisfaction.  I paused, wondering if I could possibly get through the face-punch of acid that was about to come, all for the sake of moisture.  My desperate fingers found the pith to be about an inch thick, and after a struggle, I finally held a much smaller orb of the palest yellow in my hand.  

My eyes watered at the Pledge-like aroma as I pulled off a translucent wedge, and both bravely and desperately, popped it into my mouth, bracing myself for the explosion of eye-squinting and shuddering.

Nothing.

Well, almost nothing.  The slightly dry membrane held what could be likened to very, very watered-down, warm lemonade.  It was so simple and bland that it was perplexing.  My sensory system felt lied to.  Either my nose was broken or my tongue was. 

But otherwise, it sort of did it's job.  Attacking the tree, we downed 3 or 4 apiece, and though we didn't feel quenched, we were held over till we finally reached the next house on the eternal road.  As still-thirsty young missionaries, we were bold, of course, and fearlessly knocked on the ancient wooden door. 

A squat little woman with a bowlegged walk and a dear smile met us at the door.  She wore a print skirt and a different print blouse.  A towel-turned-apron held on for dear life around her plump middle, and exhausted, dusty flats clung to her feet, her ashy, foot skin bulging in complaint. We skipped right over our usual introductions, and asked very frankly, "Pardon, Senora, could you please gift us some water?"  (Yes, that is how you say it in Costa Rica.  Isn't that lovely?).  Her surprise at seeing two American girls a foot taller than she on her porch, with no other motive but thirst, called out the old mother in her, and she did what all good mothers do; she took us to her kitchen.

We sat in a cool-ish, red tile-floored, whitewashed kitchen at a large, plank table, very unlike any place I had seen in my 5 months in the country.  We were presented with two mismatched glasses of, ironically, lemonade.  Sweet and tart, it teased us for having enjoyed the bland water balls in the orchard.  A painfully thin old fellow sat quietly on a chair near the stove, his sun-faded clothes drapped loosely on his leathered skin, and listened as we visited with the little old mother.
And that is all I remember.

All but one thing... we told her of our impromptu harvest (and apologized for taking fruit from what we learned were her trees), and shared our confusion over the strange fruit.

"Limon Dulce!" she told us... sweet lemon.  That's what we had eaten.
The name seemed oddly wrong, but yes, I guess they had been sweet... ever so slightly.  I was just glad I hadn't known the name before tasting them.

*****
So I guess bland isn't a terrible thing.  It's a beginning point, at least.  I'd love to be a cheery strawberry, bright and bold.  Who doesn't smile when they see a strawberry?  Or a peach, just pushing it's way to the front of the happy little fruit parade with is kitten fuzz and it's humorous booty.  You can't have a peach-juice-dripping chin and take yourself too seriously.  Even the banana, though bordering on silly, seems like the comedian of fruit.  It's even shaped like a smile.  But alas, though it will never shine from a well lit stack in a grocery store, a limon dulce will bring comfort in it's own weird, neither particularly spectacular nor disappointing way.  It does the job, though it might need encouragement to bring out a smile.

Encouragement... 
like that funny face
 at the top of the page.