Category Archives: Children

All in the family

Those marketing folks at L.L. Bean are brilliant. Truly. My new catalog arrived last weekend. There, on the cover, was my dog … not really my dog, but the canine in the jolly red scarf so closely resembled my dear departed Shelby that I could only stare. I did not peruse the catalog and make huge purchases, I’m sure that would disappoint those marketing gurus. I did decide it was time to find a new dog.

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you may have read my post about Shelby. My beloved black lab passed away in June. She’d been with me for 14 years … before my husband, kids and life as I know it now. She helped me finish college, get a job, move away, find new pursuits, and eventually I repaid her by getting married, buying her a bed of her own, and then filling the house will loud, crazy kids to harass her. She can’t be replaced, but it’s time to add someone new to our lives. L.L. Bean sparked my loneliness.

A quick Internet search discovered a shelter not far away with several black lab puppies available. And now, one short week after that ad lab with the big brown eyes implored me to endeavor, Libby has joined our lives. She’s seven weeks old, wears a pink polka-dot collar and gets the hiccoughs every evening. She’s sweet. She’s ornery. She’s not Shelby, but she is the cutest thing since!

Libby

Meet our new baby: Libby

Other news from the funny farm …
Marigold the goat is getting entirely too comfortable around here. She follows us around like a dog. She hangs out on the porch. One morning I opened the back door only to witness Daisy the dog and Marigold the goat both coming out of the dog house! The other afternoon I looked across the pasture to a scene that still sends me into shrieks of laughter. Picture it: Cara the Quarter Horse standing proudly in the sun while Butters the pony takes a siesta in the grass in front of her. Daisy the dog sits at attention close by. Marigold the goat is standing … standing! … on Butters’ back. And Butters seemed perfectly content. I don’t know many horses who let goats stand on them, but whatever. As long as the animals are happy, so am I!

Life on the funny farm ...

Life on the funny farm ...

Well, hubby is cutting wood. Farm boy is farming … and I need to clean up a cookie baking mess and then throw in a load of laundry before Sunday supper at church. We’re eating soup and sandwiches and then out for Christmas caroling. Aahhh, fun, fun. Hope you found a little bit of holiday spirit this weekend!
I need a tractor upgrade!

I need a tractor upgrade!

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Filed under Children, Christmas, Family, Farm, Uncategorized

As Tiny Tim said …

“God bless us, every one …” especially my husband. He is a good man. He is a patient man. And luckily, he finds humor in my situations.

The kids and I set out to find this year’s tree yesterday afternoon. We were in the market for a tall, thin tree … not the usual suspect: short, stocky and slightly Charlie Brown-ish. We walked behind the house and up and down the hill, in search of THE ONE. We wrapped a brightly-colored scarf around the top branches to signal our choice to the man of the house.

He started the tree felling about 9 p.m. His only comment, “It’s tall.”

Yes, it was tall … and it looked A LOT taller in my house than it did on the hillside. I had assured him it was about eight feet. The reality: it’s 12 of 13 feet tall. And there is only one spot in the whole house where such a gigantic tree will fit. Lucky for me we have a tall step ladder. Lucky for me dear old hubby didn’t mind that I now had to move all of the furniture to accommodate what we jokingly called, “The White House Christmas Tree!”

It is tall. It is heavy. It drinks a heck of a lot of water. It rendered my kids speechless. Yep. It’s this year’s perfect tree. Or it will be, after the kids have a chance to adorn it with their ornaments. Toilet-paper-tube angels and all!

Ohhhhhh. Christmas tree!

Ohhhhhh. Christmas tree!

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Filed under Blogroll, Children, Christmas, Family, Farm, Rural Life

Snowflakes, wood smoke and cheater muffins

We awoke to the first significant snowfall of the season. Beautiful. Dramatic. Dangerous for driving. And as the kids found out, not ideal for sledding. They managed to squeeze in a few trial runs on their way back from early morning barn chores. Conditions were not quite right for a quick trip down the hill, although it didn’t stop them—or the kids over at the Amish school—from trying. Shrieks of glee and bouts of laughter could be heard echoing through the hills this morning, long before the school bell rang.

"Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!"

About four inches fell overnight. It’s coming down right now … a presumed white-out in our back yard, as snowflakes mingle with thick plumes of wood smoke. I love the sights, sounds, smell and resulting coziness of winter. A time to be thankful and reflective. Especially this year … for some reason, I seem to have accomplished the tasks on my list. I don’t know how, but the garden and flowerbeds are cleaned; bird feeders are filled; porches cleared; chicken coop prepped for winter winds … I think it was that extra week of 70-degree sunshine in early November. One last chance to do what needed done.

Some days you deserve a shortcut. I do believe that most things taste best when made from scratch … like brownies or chocolate chip cookies. Recently, however, I’ve stumbled upon a great recipe for muffins. It’s perfect for snowy days when you’re expecting eight children and their 16 snow boots in addition to your own three kids. While they all gather round the table to make Indian Property Sticks (it’s a Thanksgiving-Squanto-Pilgrim sort of craft), you can pull out a basket of freshly-baked muffins. And these four ingredients always seem to be on hand in our house.

Farmgirl’s Oatmeal-Chocolate-Chip-Cheater Muffins

  • 3 boxes Jiffy Oatmeal Muffin Mix
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 bag chocolate chips

Prepare muffin mix according to package directions (milk & eggs). When all ingredients are combined, dump in a bag of chocolate chips. Stir. Coat two muffin tins with cooking spray. Fill 2/3 full with muffin mixture. Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Serve with glasses of milk.

They’re yummy, satisfying and slightly healthy (oatmeal is a good thing). The kids will eat ’em all up and you’ll be hero for the day.

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Filed under Children, Family, Homekeeping, Recipes, Rural Life

Be generous of spirit

I love days like this … several new magazines in the mail. So much to read, to enjoy, to ponder. With my icy Diet Coke in hand (I’ve tried to like coffee to no avail), I settled down to peruse my MaryJanesFarm magazine … after I made sure supper was bubbling on the stove, and after I made sure the kids were deeply involved in another episode of Little House on the Prairie. Mail time … 30 minutes in the late afternoon when I just sit and take it all in (unless it’s a bill-pay-mail-day, and in that case I pull out a novel!).

I fumbled into a story on page 23, written by Tad Bartimus, 2008 recipient of the Washington Press Club Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She writes, I learned from my father that “There are only two kinds of people in this world: those who are generous of spirit, and those who aren’t.” By page 24 I was totally captivated.

As I grow older and, hopefully, wiser, I distance myself from “toxic people” and seek out friends and neighbors whose values and lifestyle have already revealed their generous spirits. Surrounding myself with non-judgmental minds, open hearts and spontaneous laughter inspires me to be a better person and makes me happy …

Epiphany! Words to live by. I’ve been doing the same … distancing myself from toxic people, that is. Folks who aren’t necessarily mean or nasty or bad, but people who always, ALWAYS, see the glass half empty. People who criticize everything and rejoice over nothing. They reply to your excitement with something negative, critical or mean-spirited. They have the power to change your confident smile and happy demeanor into self-doubt. They greet you with demands instead of caring, compassionate words or smiles. They make you feel guilty for not falling into their quagmire.

Maybe you know someone who fits the description. Maybe you’ve tried to help them find joy again. I hope you were successful. If not … step away. Life is too short—too valuable, to waste on misery. And just because you can’t change ’em, doesn’t mean you have to join ’em.

Generous spirits make a better world.
The same magazine had another article, Compassion. Author Rebekah Teal writes:
I’ve noticed a new popular pastime. And that is to take pleasure in criticizing others. Have you noticed it? The way we’ve all become generally intolerant of the other guy? We sit around and stew about what someone else is doing or not doing, what someone else has or doesn’t have, what someone else believes or doesn’t believe. We even speculate about motives. In short, we lack compassion for each other, and that is giving us a bad attitude … It hurts us. It gets in the way of finding our own joy and contentment.

If you’ve stayed with me this far, thanks so much. I realize I’ve been going on and on!  I’ll conclude this rambling soap-box diatribe with Teal’s words:
When we become so negative about things that are irrelevant to us, we are unable to seek the positive things that are truly relevant. There is no room, no motivation, and no energy left to find the fireflies in our own lives.

Maybe I’ll make a list of my fireflies … a husband who survives my moods, appreciates my dilemmas and supports my dreams. A two-year-old who revels in nakedness and shouts “Woo-hoo!” when he manages to escape a diaper. A doe-eyed, long-lashed six-year-old whose infectious grin helps her escape predicaments. A serious, thoughtful and tenderhearted eight-year-old who knows when Mommy needs a hug. Yeah, I have some awfully bright fireflies. You do too …  

Go put on your rose-colored glasses! Grab your red lipstick and highlight those lips … then use ’em. Give a genuine smile to a stranger and see if they don’t pay you back immediately.

Want to read these articles in their entirety? Suscribe online or pick up a copy of MaryJanesFarm at your local bookstore. I’ve also seen it for sale at Tractor Supply Company. It’s a beautiful publication filled with helpful tips and tricks, recipes, beautiful photos and inspirational stories for anyone who possesses a farm girl spirit.

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Filed under Children, Family, Rural Life

Ode to Summer

Sweet summer! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways …

I love out-of-control flowerbeds ...

I love out-of-control flowerbeds ...

... the promise of tasty treats

... the promise of tasty treats

... spring chicks turned into happy hens ...

... spring chicks turned into happy hens ...

... and the first egg from the new flock.

... and the first egg from the new flock.

I love kids who appreciate dirt and mud.

I love kids who appreciate dirt and mud.

I love tall grass, rolling hills and the wild, blue yonder.

I love tall grass, rolling hills and the wild, blue yonder ...

... and wildflower bouquets from little girls.

... and wildflower bouquets from little girls.

I love fresh-picked sweet corn.

I love fresh-picked sweet corn.

Prospering gardens ...

Prospering gardens ...

... and shady borders along stone paths.

... and shady borders along stone paths.

I love birthday parties ...

I love birthday parties ...

... and birdhouses.

... and birdhouses.

And unexpected catastrophes aren't so bad ...

And unexpected catastrophes aren't so bad ...

... when paired with a hardworkin' hubby, corn on the cob, watermelon and a cold beer on a hot, sunny day.

... when paired with a hardworkin' hubby, corn on the cob, watermelon and a cold beer on a hot, sunny day.

Photos from a midsummer evening … brief moments in a vast span of summer days. Take a walk … open your eyes … capture a moment. What does your summer look like?

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Filed under Blogroll, Children, Family, Farm, Flowers, Garden, Homekeeping, Nature, Rural Life

Cherishing Independence.

This has been an extremely difficult week for me … and it’s only Tuesday. The problem? I celebrated my independence for four days straight. Now I’m finding it tough to shoulder the burden of work and daily responsibility.

For the past three years, we have joined those we love most in the world for a Fourth of July weekend family campout. At times we resembled a refugee camp. At the very least, a gang of gypsies. Accommodations range from tents to campers to motor homes, one year a tour bus. And there are always those who sleep under the stars.

It’s an environment where fishing is required. Laughter is inevitable. Bathing is optional. Teeth brushing, or at the very least gargling, is highly recommended. It’s a span of hours when amazing amounts of food are prepared and consumed. Children roam freely without curfews or constraints. Campfire meetings involve s’mores, jokes, stories and intense feelings of belonging.

The only rules? Have fun. Be kind to others. Live each moment to the fullest.

And now … it’s back to reality. My children argue bed time. I see their point. I can’t find a valid reason for 9 p.m. lights out just because we’re sleeping in our own beds and not in a sleeping bag. And another thing … why do they have to take a bath? They didn’t have to when we were camping, for goodness sakes! Ok … fine. Go run through the sprinkler a few times … grab a bar of soap on your way out.

The kids are the least of my worries. I’m the one with the real dilemma. The adjustment from total relaxation to reality in the span of 12 hours was especially challenging. I had to go to work on Monday. I had to shower off my independence, adorn myself in working garb and wrap my mind around marketing, branding, advertising and return on investment. I had to sit in a conference room and focus on editorial content when my heart hadn’t quite recovered from the love fest of a Sunday morning worship service in the great outdoors or the camaraderie of family spanning four generations.

But I survived. I even concentrated. I accomplished what I needed to and then came home, embraced my family and stared, starry-eyed, at the photos of our weekend. It’s such a special time … an experience that stays with you for days, months … until next time.

And then the phone rings. What? A last-minute get-together this Friday night? Absolutely. This time we’ll leave our fishing poles behind. We’ll arrive freshly bathed and hair combed. Mindful of curfews and well-behaved children … but we’ll still gather. We’ll partake. We’ll live and love and belong, because we’re family.

That’s the most important thing you know. It’s not work or gas prices or politics or discipline. It’s the value you place in the family God gave you  … no matter what.

As Jane Howard said, “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”

This farm girl is a fisherwoman!

This farm girl is a fisherwoman!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rubber boots are a requirement.

Rubber boots are a requirement.

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Filed under Children, Family, Rural Life

My continuing education

Life is always teaching us something and it’s important to pay attention. Why just today, I’ve learned a number of useful tidbits.

  • It is possible for a two-year-old to empty an entire bottle of Elmer’s glue on the table in the 4.5 seconds it takes a mother to walk to the sink and back.
  • When chasing FIVE wayward cows from front lawn to pasture, be assured they will ALL get out minutes later. After fixing the broken board, be sure to look for stretched wires as well.
  • Even though washing the tie-dye shirts your kids made SHOULD have removed any excess dye, do not, I repeat: DO NOT put them in with lighter colors for the first 25 washings at least.
  • Kittens DO indeed climb curtains … the cartoons are not exaggerating.
  • If you pay for new wheel bearings one week, rest assured the brakes will go the next.
  • Two-year-olds enjoy watching pennies float to the bottom of the fish tank. Five- and seven-year-olds also find it amusing.
  • If little girls use glitter for any craft project, it will grace every plausible surface for weeks (including behind their ears).

Those are the highlights of today’s educational journey. Oh … one other thing. Netflix is awesome! One day we read a Magic School Bus book on water purification, evaporation and condensation, and the next we were watching the cartoon on our Netflix DVD. We’ll send it back tomorrow and by Friday hubby and I will have a movie for Friday night date night. No, we don’t “go out” much these days. Why? No one wants to babysit for one thing. And then there is the rising cost of goods and services. Here’s some other wisdom I’ll share:

$  8.00 = 2 gallons of gas for trip to a town with a movie theater
$16.00 = two movie tickets
$  8.00 = large popcorn and two drinks
$25.00 = babysitter for three kids
Total: $57.00 (without dinner)

OR

$  8.00 = Candlelit steak dinner after kids go to bed (steaks from freezer and garden veggies)
$  0.89 = DVD movie from Netflix ($8.99 a month for unlimited DVDs—we average 10/month)
$  0.00 = Relaxing, romantic, gourmet experience in the comfort of home
Total: Priceless … for less than ten bucks.

I’m not as frugal as I’d like to be …

I’d love to kick my Diet Coke addiction, for instance. It would save me $5 a week at least. It’s just that I adore my icy-cold caffeine. On the bright side, it’s cheaper than $5 cups of coffee that some folks can’t live without.

Then there’s my vehicle. It’s true: I drive a gas-guzzling SUV. I have three kids, I haul other people’s kids. I haul various pieces of large furniture for my business. Occasionally I haul animals, feed and of course those caseloads of Diet Coke. I need the extra room. I need all that towing capacity for our little 15-foot camper, NellieBelle. Shake your head … wag your finger. I don’t mind. I love my ‘burb. I’d rather sacrifice the caffeine than give up my battleship. And to be honest, the gas mileage isn’t any worse than a pick-up truck. Well, unless I’m in a hurry. I don’t go very far very often anyway.

I have made allowances to make up for my gasoline. Just this month I’ve saved $16 on my electric bill because I no longer use the dryer. You see, I wash at least one load of clothes a day and it adds up. I’ve come to love my clotheslines. My porch now resembles a large spider’s web, but my clothes smell sunshine-fresh. I tried to buy more clothespins the other day, but the store was out. Apparently I’m not the only one conserving this summer.

Anyway … those are my little nuggets of knowledge for the day. Enjoy!

FOOTNOTE: Never leave a two-year-old unattended while blogging. They will inevitably find the fingernail polish left out by the five-year-old. They will then redecorate your bathroom counter.

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Filed under Children, Homekeeping, Rural Life