Friday, May 29, 2009

Eternal Woman

This picture is of my Grandmother. I love it both for the inherent beauty of the picture, but also for the way it showcases her life in one perfect image. It shows her love for her family, for the land, for beauty and growing things and for the mountains that gave a backdrop to her life.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Love is in the air!

For those who have been waiting--it is now OFFICIAL! Joe and April are engaged, with a date set for August 14th. I now have 2 weddings to decorate this summer, and 2 other people I love are engaged. All of them are marriages that I can support with my whole heart, with no misgivings. One of my main happinesses in life is to see great people find each other, and follow their hearts wisely.

I believe that the head should rule the heart--to a point!

Definitely Weather!

I have been hoping for some rain for my little gardens. It has been unseasonably dry here. Usually after Mother's Day, we get pretty steady rain for 2 or 3 weeks, but this year I have had to water every day.

Well, Tuesday took care of that. We got 5 1/2 inches of rain in 3 hours. That is A LOT of water. It continued to rain heavily on Wednesday, and the humidity is staggering. Also--yesterday (Wednesday) the power was off for about 8 hours. The kids always enjoy the novelty of no power, and they LOVE candlelight, so a good time was had by all!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Do I look on the bright side, or the dark side?

In the last 48 hours, SmallDaughter has dumped BOTH cannisters of flour (white & whole wheat) out on the grass, so she could "mop" them with her little string mop (which she had gotten really wet in the WonderDog's water dish). She has also dumped 2 different bottles of laundry detergent on the floor. She has tried sawing the doorjamb of the kitchen with the big butcher knife, and when that was confiscated had a major meltdown. Then, today, she got the big bread knife (one of the 2 most lethal knives in the house) and was out cutting her swing with it.

Dark Side:
AAARGGGHH! It NEVER stops! Why Me? ***Hysterical Sobbing****

Bright Side:
I am very glad she dumped the flour outside, I am getting sick of sweeping it up inside. On the grass requires 0 cleanup from me. The flour paste on her mop makes it look much cleaner and brighter!

She dumped the bottle of good detergent that only had one load's worth left, and the other detergent was the wierd generic kind that smells funny and doesn't wash too well that has been sitting on the shelf for years. AND she dumped them on the concrete, not on the carpet. Trust me, getting any concentrated soap out of carpet is not fun.

The knife thing--well I am very grateful she isn't cutting herself or other people.

All in all, I am definitely a "bright side" person. The dark side is too freakin' depressing.

All of this took place AFTER the bottle of shampoo from the last post.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

ooh, ooh,OOOOOH, Fiber!

I got to attend the "Great Lakes Fiber Show" today, and all I can say is "OOOOOOOOOOOH!" One of the friends I ran into (spinning, weaving, felting--it's a small community--you run into the people you know, it is true, even though I am a newbie!) said "I could spend a million dollars here!"--and boy was that the truth! Everything a fiber addict could dream of!

I have to say at this point--I have spent my whole life hanging around "creative types"--and not just one type. Artists, authors, poets, actors, woodcarvers, you name it. AND, out of all those people, "fiber fanatics" (taken as a group) are THE MOST creative--and not just with the fiber, either. Hang out with them, and you will hear overlapping conversations not only about the knitting, rug-hooking, needle felting, weaving and exiting new dye technique they want to try, but also about caligraphy, violin championships, Pennsylvania Dutch paper folding, and about the trip they took in the Model T they restored (that was a true example!).

They are also much less ego-driven, and more creativity driven (they don't NEED an audience--and frequently enjoy creating alone). Truly, they are a great group to hang around with. They love to talk, but aren't as prone to B.S. or self-glorification that other "creative types" indulge in. They have a tendency to be very practical and level headed in their blazing creativity (you never hear about the short tragic life of a knitter who fried their brain on heroin!).

That said--fiber addiction is only a tiny bit cheaper than crack cocaine addiction. I strolled past booth after booth of vendors--selling everything from goats milk soap (don't knock it, it is great stuff!--gentle, environmentally friendly and effective!) raw wool, spun wool, spinning wheels (old & new), jewelery, books, and clothes--lacy shawls knit from gorgeously colored yarn as fine as spun moonbeams, thick warm cardigans made from recycled, felted sweaters, awesome purses and bags (sewn, quilted, knitted, felted, and many combinations!) HATS--in every imaginable style, color and type.

There are lots of new ideas for things I haven't tried yet, and plenty of the creative persons bane "I could do that!" I got some great ideas, great inspirations and some great bargains, too. In good news, I got two new hat forms, so I can make smaller hats, and a bunch of white yarn to hand dye and sell
in my Etsy shop!

Now I must go resume real life, since SmallDaughter just dumped a bottle of shampoo on the basement floor. Sigh.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Today's Surreal Random Thought

I was watching my crazy, neurotic little chipmunk out the kitchen window just now, and I got to thinking: "How can you tell if a chipmunk really is crazy and neurotic,or if he is perfectly well adjusted?"

Consider--running in a crazed and frantic fashion--perfectly mentally healthy for a chipmunk. Darting around in random directions, then suddenly changing and darting in the opposite direction. Again, perfect chipmunk behavior. Panicking at sudden noises and movements--Wow, it appears the poor little dude is in great shape mentally!

As a brief note of explanation for all of this philosophical wandering, I am home all alone (!) and I am very tired.

I did warn you--Random and Surreal.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Random Pictures of Amish Country

Today, the dear Aunts and I got to have a lovely outing to Amish country. We took a nature walk at a forest preserve and enjoyed the beautiful spring flowers.

We went to several stores that had some great finds. We all enjoyed the newly expanded fabric store (mostly built out of a salvaged barn), and marveling at the beautiful quilts--that we will never have the patience to make ourselves!

An Amish Country Road Sign.

Just a little bragging

OK, yesterday was the official graduation for my dear Aunt A, who now holds a genuine Juris Doctorate degree! Because A) I am the mother of SmallDaughter, who we love dearly, but we all agree does not do well at formal events or anything that involves waiting around without a lot of action (and boy do graduation ceremonies count in THAT category!) and B) the party was at my house, so I had to do quite a bit of pre-party excavating of said house, I did not attend the actual graduation ceremonies.

So, imagine my surprise when, this morning I am browsing through the Commencement Program, and see a little footnote after her name. I follow it down to the bottom and see that it means Cum Laude!

This from the person who assured me only days ago that she was fairly certain she had failed the whole thing! Seriously--it is like living with Hermione Granger--that after-test anxiety and the extreme studying (and a look at my GPA will show that I never had that going! Laissez-faire, that's me!)

I am just so proud of her!

Saturday, May 16, 2009


I just got all of my gardens planted (except the potatoes--and they hardly count!). This is the best garden yet (I am still in the "novice" stage of gardening, but I have finally made it out of the "newbie" stage!)!

I have two large raised beds, filled with my excellent home-made soil (which just wows me every time I work with it!), six small (tire sized) raised herb beds filled with the good soil, one small very raised bed (about 2 1/2 feet by 2 1/2 feet across, and 3 1/2 feet high--to try and keep the !@#$%^&*! ground-hogs out of the melons and cukes) and one "terraced garden" made from small containers (actually sections of 12" to 24" culvert pipe that MFG cut into 18" high chunks for me, which do make lovely mini-beds--plastic buckets with the bottoms cut out also work) which (sadly for it) is filled with our yucky, crappy clay soil (actually a load of topsoil that MFG dumped out of the back of the old dump truck he bought). In the potato and carrot beds, I amended the clay (spiffy gardening term for "mixed together") with the old, gross sand out of SmallDaughters sandbox--filled with pine-needles and wierd algae stuff from being wet and covered for months--definitely better in the garden!. Very heavy stuff, my arms are achy and tired.

Everything is planted with a companion marigold. Sadly, I am not very fond of marigolds, but they do keep the !@#$%^&*! ground-hogs, rabbits and deer from eating everything quite as quickly. I like them better than I used to.

ENVY ALERT! We got to go to the Greek Festival last night! There is a small Greek Orthodox church just down the block from my Dad's house, and each year on their Patron Saints day, they have a festival. We always love the tour of the sanctuary (LargeBoy whispered "I wish our church was this fancy!"), the dancing and THE FOOD! I trade off SmallDaughter and the WonderDog to my Aunt A, and take LargeCousinGirl with us(and bring bake lots of food for those who had to stay at home). All the food, and all the desserts are baked by the sweet ladies of the church. AAAHHH!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Real Independence means no one HOVERS

Yesterday, while I was in the garage running power tools, LargeBoy came out and asked if he could build something. I said yes--that being a VERY important part of my homeschooling philosophy. He puttered around, getting some wood from the scrap pile, asking questions, and I showed him how to safely operate the radial arm saw, and the drill/screwdriver, and he made a very nice box for DVD's--as nice as most high school shop projects. He is excited to make more projects--the world has opened up for him! It is fun to see! Also, while we were outside, BigGirl volunteered to make dinner, called her aunt for a favorite recipe, and made pasta alfredo with meat from scratch--with no help! A day for independence!

Almost free range chickens

I spent a large portion of yesterday building a portable chicken run for the ladies. (All of my chickens are ladies--or they had better be--the hatchery guarantees 90% accuracy on sexing them, which means we have a statistical possibility of up to 4 roosters, but none of them have shown any rooster traits--yet!) They seemed to enjoy it, although it may take some time for them to realize that worms and bugs come from the ground, not from the sky (in the always excited hands of the kids).

They can run around in the pen, without me worrying about catching them or getting eaten by critters (dogs are probably likelier, but I really hate raccoons--they are vicious!)

I enjoyed working with power tools, even though I am out of practice, so I took much longer than I should have, and tried in-effective ways of doing things first (as a short-cut, which ended up taking much longer, and being much harder--go figure!) I always feel a bit intimidated by power tools, but then I remind myself "guys do it all the time--and I can read the directions!"

Since I am coming up on "crunch-time" gardening-wise (where I live, historically speaking, if you don't get your garden in by May 14th, it starts to rain, and it is too wet until the first or second week of June). So today, I got one bed of my garden soil turned and mixed (it is so much easier with the lovely compost/loam mix--all light and fluffy and rich). I still need to turn 1 bed(but it needs to be done when the chickens can come out and eat the ant colony!) and build 3 more beds (but I can do that when it's raining!).

I got my herb bed started--I am using raised, bottomless containers layed over weed-cloth, filled with my own lovely soil mix. I got the first 5 herbs planted (the little Mennonite nursery I went to didn't have much selection in herbs). I also planted my Mother's Day perrenials. I am doing a "slowly improving each year" method, because that is all I can do.

Monday, May 11, 2009

True confession

I was just having a ramble through the blogosphere, and was looking at the cute list of linked blogs on the side of a blog I had enjoyed reading, and noticed one of them was called "Smitten Kitchen" EXCEPT I read it wrong, and got "Smutty Kitchen"! I wonder what THAT would have? Hmmmm--not the cute rhubarb cobbler recipe, I am guessing!

Yay! We made it!

We are all done with the yard sale! It managed not to rain, although we had wind gusts in excess of 60 mph. We did well enough, although the real triumph was packing all of the leftover-didn't-sells directly into the truck and to the thrift store--YAY!!!

I made it through Mother's Day with no bloodshed and hardly any swearing. I am not a fan.

It appears that Scotty the eternal houseguest (he who was shot in the leg) who has been showing up randomly for a night or two--which I haven't bothered posting, because I just try to ignore the whole thing--may possibly be leaving. I am not holding my breath--he did it before, got shot and came back. It's sort of like a boomerang, only smokes nastier cigs.

I am planning a party. I do love to have parties--and this is the best excuse ever! My dear Auntie A is GRADUATING FROM LAW SCHOOL! I am so proud of her. She has been slogging through school against incredible odds (seriously, the first month of her law school she had a crisis EVERY SINGLE DAY--including her hubbys heart bypass surgery!)

This week I have to work on my garden. I finally have the other stuff resolved to the point of being able to. I must go and get more hardware, for making more raised beds. I have entirely given up on the dirt here in my yard (which is such a fine grade of clay that my sister actually made some pots out of it, dried them in the sun, and they stayed (visibly pot-like) all summer). Great for pottery. Just not good for growing veggies in.

So, I have started making my own soil, and it is MUCH more satisfactory. It is not rocket science. I just put nice former plant matter back together--well aged horse manure, sawdust, grass clippings, all the raked leaves from along the fence line, all the compost bin stuff, and anything else that comes along cheap.

I really like the "square foot gardening" concept. (Just google it, you know I can't get links to work). MUCH LESS WEEDING. Especially since I staple garden felt over the box, and just cut a little hole for the plants I want. AAAHH.

So today, I need to go mix together all of the soil ingredients I have been assembling since last fall. Then I will let the chickens roam through the whole thing to eat all the cutworms and slugs out of it, and voila! I will be ready to plant! (although there is always a whole lot more work before that voila than I like to remember).

Friday, May 8, 2009

Good Tears and book reviews

I stayed up until 10:15 reading (again) which wouldn't be bad for normal people, but I get up at 4:30 in the freakin' morning (with a cheerful morning person hubby! URG! I stumble around like a zombie, while he is all cheerful and chipper. Urg.). So, any staying up at all creates dire waves the next morning. Usually after I finish teaching my seminary class I go back to bed for an hour--usually snuggling my sweet kids. But this morning, I read my email, and one of the moms on my online support group recommended this video (STRONG Kleenex warning)


(Still can't get my computer to link to things, sorry!)

Whoa! I can't even listen to Collin Raye in the car, because every single song he does makes me cry and here he goes and does one about my life, and being the mom of a daughter with neurological handicaps--yeah, I haven't stopped crying all morning.

I stayed up reading "The Sugar Queen" by Sarah Addison Allen.

Last summer I read (and was utterly captivated by) her book "Garden Spells".

I love her new reality, where magic is just lightly tossed in as a part of regular life. I was not as captured by "The Sugar Queen" which merely means that it was much better than most other books. I really, really loved "Garden Spells", so almost everything falls short of that.

However, another good read, on a TOTALLY different wave length is "A Girl Named Zippy (Growing Up Small in Moreland, Indiana)" by Haven Kimmel.

This is written with a very dry, midwestern voice, and her humor is so sly that it takes me by surprise, and then I find myself falling off my chair laughing, and wondering how she did it.

Anyway, now I have used up all my sleep time on the computer (again). Today I have to prepare for the "ordeal of the yard sale" which will happen tomorrow. Big Sigh.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Busy Days!

Monday and Tuesday were the kind of crazy days that began with activities and continued, non-stop from one thing to the next, without any breaks. HOWEVER--Tuesday all of the activities were fun! There was a Homeschool Celebration, but since it was in a city about an hour and half away, we went to the zoo (in the city) first! I do love nice zoos. I am so happy that zoos have gotten away from the small concrete cages of my youth, and into realistic habitats and education. It was a perfect day--upper 60's, slightly overcast, not too hot or too cold. We took SmallDaughter out of school for the day. She loved the fish, the adorable little sugar-glider (that nicely ran back and forth on a twig in front of the window just at her eye level--she called it a "mouse") and the elephants. She DID NOT like the reptile house. At all. It began with recordings of crocodiles roaring, and then when we got past the turtles (and I have to admit that coming across that alligator snapping turtle right at eye level would freak me out!)

When we got past the turtles to the snakes, I looked down, where she was riding in her stroller, and she had pulled her sunbonnet over her face! She would not look until we left the building! It was very cute.

LargeGirl LOVED the manatees. She always does! The large cats were all sleeping, and didn't respond at all, but the WonderDog was DEEPLY interested in the kangaroos, and the monkeys all came over to check him out!

Everybody enjoyed the homeschool day. The kids had a great time meeting and playing with other HS kids. It was nice to check in with other parents--we will definitely be attending again.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


I am making spaghetti. Actually, this is a fairly common thing in my life, since we usually have spaghetti on Sunday, after church (occasionally we have a pot roast in the crock pot). However, if the truth be told, I don't actually care for spaghetti very much. I like (or LOVE) all other shapes and forms of pasta, but I am just "not that into" spaghetti. However, I do care (very much) for my family, and they love spaghetti--so here I am cooking it again.

And, as a special treat for both of my girls (LargeBoy is away on an all boys expedition with his best friend and BF's dad--more on that later) I am making meatballs. I used to buy them in bulk at Sams' Club, (and they are very convenient that way), but they are also quite expensive AND about 500 calories EACH--and they are tiny! Mine are much bigger--and I have no idea about how many calories are in them, but they are healthier--I sneak stuff like the leftover brown rice in, and cook them in olive oil.

This is something I do because I love them, not because I like to. I am a perfectly functional cook--but it isn't something I particularly enjoy. That is not true of baking--with the exception of cakes, I am a fairly sensational baker. The worst part of cooking is thinking of what to cook. And, this is made worse by the fact that I have to do it every freakin' day! (MFG is not a cook--and is never home by the time dinner needs to be made).

For the most part, I have solved this in 2 ways: I noticed we had trends in what we ate, so I set them in stone (or at least very solid jello). Monday we have tacos or some mexican variation. On Fridays we have pizza (usually homemade, sometimes delivered). Voila--if I include the Sunday Spaghetti, half of my meals are planned! Then, I make menus for all the rest of the days of the month (jot a note on the bottom of the calendar, taking crazy busy away from home nights into account) and PRESTO! I DON'T HAVE TO THINK! Yay!

Friday, May 1, 2009


I found out today that one of my dear friends has died. She left this mortal world suddenly, leaving behind a huge wake of pain, grief and unanswered questions. Patrice was my first mission companion. As an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I chose to serve an 18 month mission, far from my home and family, speaking a foreign language (it was a humility thing--I asked God to send me somewhere foreign that didn't speak Spanish, having just scraped painfully through a year of Spanish 1 in college--and He sent me to Los Angeles, Spanish speaking. It ended up great, and I loved it, but I would never have chosen it for myself). I paid for the chance to give up college and dating for a year and a half, and in return I got the most amazing life lessons possible.

A mission is a microcosm of life. You are with a companion (of the same gender) 24/7. You study together, teach together, do service together, do laundry together. Sometimes your companions become lifelong friends. Sometimes they are just endured. Hopefully, you learn important lessons about communication, about humility and life skills. The most important lessons you learn are about obedience to God, and becoming a Selfless Service to others as you try to become a true disciple of the Savior.

My mission prepared me for life, for marriage and for future service. I gained MANY wonderful things from it, but the sweetest blessings of all were the friendships I gained. Patrice and I were friends from the start--from day 1. We had so much in common, so much to talk about. We ended up serving together 3 times during our missions, and were room-mates, too.

While I was serving, my family moved across the country, so I ended up going "home" to a new state, new town, new friends. The miles and the years came between us, but we were still friends, even though we didn't talk much.

I was shocked to hear of her passing. I know that this mortal life is not the end of our existence. I know that we have so much to do after we leave this short session on earth--work and friendships and much, much more. However, I grieve for myself, for the talks we won't get to have, for the phone calls and the letters and the inspiration that I am going to miss.

I grieve for her family, left without her smile, trying to make sense of their new reality, left with ripples of pain, frustration and grief. I hope they know that even when they feel mad at God, that He keeps loving them, just the way I loved my small angry toddler when they furiously yelled that they hated me. I knew that they were hungry, tired, and having a meltdown, and that as soon as their little bodies had what they needed, they would be able to feel love again. God is big enough to take it. When we are sad, angry, hostile, horrible--He still loves us, and He loves us even through our pain.

There are no words that I can say that will take their hurt away. I have gone through the lonely and painful path of grief. I can't even fix the stupid, painful things people will say as they try to help ("Everything happens for a reason", "She's in a better place now" "Jesus needed her more than you did") the things that make you want to scream and throw things. The only thing I can say is "I hurt with you, and I am praying for you--and I won't stop".

Au Revoir, Patrice. I love you, I will miss you. Till we meet again.

Update on SmallDaughter

Being a mom is always an adventure. However, being the mom of a child with special needs takes adventuring to whole new levels. Watching SmallDaughter is like watching childhood in slow motion. BigGirl and LargeBoy learned and grew so fast that you didn't really notice how much work they put into it.

With SmallDaughter, everything comes after so much work that you savor EVERY milestone, every goal met. For instance, we have been working on a physical therapy goal of learning how to bend the knees and then jump! This has been one of our PT goals for six years now! And, finally, the other day, she jumped out of the van for me! YAY!

We had her IEP meeting with the school on Tuesday. For those of you who are (luckily) not in the "alphabet soup" of Special Needs Jargon, an IEP is an "Individual Education Plan" and is supposed to be a meeting of all of the teachers, therapists, school administrators and parents to plan how best to meet the child's needs. It often ends up confrontationally as parents are frustrated by the lack of care for their child or downright disregard of previous goals and objectives. However--this time for us, was a love fest! SmallDaughter has awesome teachers, who are helping her achieve, while staying within her realistic abilities. I am really grateful for them.

She can be incredibly hard to live with. I don't think anyone can understand how exhausting it is to live with special needs 24/7 for days and weeks and years until they are in it (just like you can't get the reality of pregnancy or child rearing from a book). She is about 2 1/2 developmentally. When I hear moms complain about the "terrible twos" it makes me laugh--we have been doing it for 5 years!

Plus--she has no sense of self preservation at all, no sense of aversion (so she eats horrible things like bananas in the peel, raw pork chops and boiled eggs with the shell). Dinner is always a race--me to get the food into the pan and into the oven before she gets it and runs away laughing.

On several occasions I have thawed the meat in the microwave, only to find that she has opened the door, cut open the package and shared it with the Wonderdog (who is her Service Dog)--no wonder he loves her so much! She pours, dumps and ruins things(mere words cannot express what an understatement this sentence is!). She has written on every surface in our house--using every imaginable media--pens, markers, crayons, gluestick, deodorant (which will write on ANYTHING--glass, wood, carpet!)

Every door, cupboard and drawer is locked. The fridge is locked. Anything you can write with is stored at least 6 feet high (you think I'm kidding!). She watches to see when anyone leaves a lock undone. She loves sharp objects--scissors, knives, and will stash them so she can get them later! She loves to cut her hair--and her clothes.

She has also lost another tooth. This is a MUCH less dramatic affair than it was for the other kids. Unlike BigGirl and LargeBoy she doesn't believe in or care about the Tooth Fairy (no understanding of abstract concepts), and she can't tell you when one is loose. So, I suppose she swallowed it--last night I just noticed there is a gap that didn't used to be there! That is all. No fuss, no complaints (unless you try to wiggle it for her!)

She is such a bright spot in the life of anyone who comes in contact with her--especially once they get past her surface "differences". She is incredibly funny! It still stuns me how someone non-verbal can joke so well. She is bright and smart and stubborn. She loves getting to choose and express an opinion. She loves getting to help and be useful. She teaches us about simple, pure love, and the importance of each soul. She reminds me to laugh.

As crazy as she makes me, I am so blessed to be her mom.