Monthly Archives: April 2011

Nobody Warned Me About This.

This week I’ve been particularly unmotivated and exhausted. I’m not really sure why, because today the weather is beautiful, the sun is shining (for once), the sky is blue, I managed to round up another fugitive chicken this morning before she ran off, did the laundry, and even forced myself to clean our bedroom which is usually neglected because nobody sees it but us.

But even after doing all that I still feel I’ve accomplished nothing. I think I’m more exhausted than I was as a new parent, and I feel like I’m dragging around like a zombie, frightening the neighborhood kids. Well, if we had any neighborhood kids. Which we don’t, really, other than our own. 

Boys have a wealth of energy. Nobody told me about that. I didn’t have brothers so I didn’t know first-hand. Oh, sure, everyone told me how different boys and girls are but nothing could have prepared me for the reality – just like labor and delivery.

Our son has two speeds – full throttle and stop – and full throttle lasts from about 6:30 a.m. until about 8:00 p.m.

That’s a longer work day than many.

He’s demanding, too. He has plenty of toys but tires of them quickly. He loves to watch “Cake Boss” and “Billy the Exterminator” and “Pawn Stars” but let’s face it, those shows have only so much redeeming value. He would happily ride his bike around all day long but he can’t ride in the street unless I accompany him, and his “favorite trail” is currently flooded.

Some mothers, mothers of boys in particular, understand these things. One day in the grocery store as the produce misters came on, Ethan started skipping up and down the aisles waving his hands in the mist. I sighed (my usual response to one of his antics) and gave a half-hearted “Ethaaaaan…come ON…”  A lady saw this and laughed – and laughed some more – through the produce section.

It’s okay. I know she wasn’t laughing at me. She was laughing because she’d been there.

But! This morning Ethan sat down and asked me to spell a phrase out for him, which I did. I knew why he had asked but it didn’t lessen my delight when he presented me with this:

Ethan's card to mom

It made me feel like maybe all this dragging around from keeping up with him really was resulting in something good. It helped me feel a little better and brightened my day a whole lot. Just like when he brings me freshly-picked dandelions from the yard, most of which have already gone to seed and will soon be littering my floor with their fluff.

Maybe it’s best that moments like these are relatively few and far between. That way I appreciate them more.

* * *

Note: For those of you who believe I’m overstating the facts when I describe Ethan’s energy, this morning we had the following conversation:

“Hey Mom, c’mere, let me show you something!”

“What is it, Ethan?”

“C’mere! It’s really cool, it’s in my room!”

“Can’t you just tell me what it is?”

“No, I have to show you! C’mon Mom, please? C’mere!”

So I went. And here’s what he showed me:

Second Note: He didn’t always just have a mattress on the floor a la college-kid-in-his-first-crappy-apartment. We were forced to remove his very nice headboard/footboard/rails combo because no matter what threats and discipline we meted out, we couldn’t stop him from jumping on the bed. Eventually it broke, and Greg, at the end of his rope, just took the damned thing apart and carried it to the basement.

Third Note: For those of you who think you know better and could correct this behavior, I would be MORE THAN HAPPY to let you give it a shot. You go right ahead, and while you’re laboring away, I’ll be standing in the corner snickering.

Ah, well. “Pick your battles,” they say. “Accept the things you cannot change,” they say.

Sage advice.

Easter Weekend, 2011.

It was a busy one.

We began with an egg ‘hunt’ at the library. I don’t find it much of a hunt when the eggs are scattered across the grass, but whatever. Ethan was the only kid who followed directions.

Wait, did you read that?

He was the only kid who FOLLOWED DIRECTIONS.

Hunting - but not really - Copyproudface - Copy

That evening, the kids scrambled around to get the eggs dyed before we left the next day…

concentration

Since Easter isn’t a religious holiday for us, we made camping reservations way back when for Trail of Tears State Park with our friends Paul, Cynthia, and Madison.

Greg took Friday off and away we went – which was a good thing, because St. Louis got hammered by horrible weather and tornadoes.

We stopped in Jackson for lunch at Wib’s (delicious, but I’m going with a hot brown combo next time for sure), and then of course I couldn’t stand to drive by an ice cream stand without stopping for ice cream. It’s kind of a thing of ours, to get ice cream on these family trips.

wibsice cream

laurel's ice cream faceethan's ice cream face

As usual, Ethan spent his camping time with this:

logging miles

And Laurel spent her camping time squirreled away inside campers playing Nintendo.

(slow burn)

It wouldn’t be a Boneblog vacation without rain, and naturally we were pummeled with it from Friday night through Saturday afternoon, when the park staff told us we had to evacuate thanks to the river (the Mississippi) coming up over the low water bridge just outside the campground.

So we did, and ended up at Hawn State Park, where it continued raining the entire time until we were ready to leave, when it cleared up.

Then it rained on us all the way home.

Good times, right?

Well, turns out we did have a good time because we had good company, good food, and logged another weekend of rainy camping which always seems to bode well for good weather on our big summer vacation.

(fingers crossed)

Fugitives!

This evening, as I walked out on the deck with an article about rain barrels in my hand…

(I don’t know why)

…I glanced over toward the chicken coop and saw this:

Runnoft
Artist’s Rendering

“SHIT. Greg, I need your help!”

“What?”

“I. NEED. YOUR. HELP.”

“What is it?”

“We have CHICKENS ON THE LOOSE.”

I dropped my paper and went tiptoeing as quickly as I could the rest of the way down the stairs. See, my pullets aren’t the kind of fantasy chickens I’ve read about, the kind who let you walk right up to them and pick them up like big babies, to be held and cuddled and bathed and whatever else some of these crazy chicken owners do. Kinda like my kids.

“Shitshitshit.”

No, these girls – while arguably quite fond of us as the Keepers of the Krickets – they’re independent-minded and therefore certainly do not care to be handled. Or told what to do. Kinda like me.

As I approached, I saw yet another of them on the ground outside the pen. Meanwhile, two or three of them had jumped back inside.

“Okay,” I thought, “this is doable. I’m going to herd this one back around to the door” (which I had just opened because all the other pullets were safely out in the run away from the door).

The chickens haven’t got a lot of experience in being herded, but fortunately do have a desire to be with their own kind, so she stuck close to the fence all the way around…and then bypassed the open door and kept right on going, all the way back to the other side of the pen.

On the other side of the pen, after I’d finally caught her and deposited her into the netting, I thought I was done.

“Shitshitshit.”

“What?” asked Greg.

“I LEFT THE DOOR OPEN.”

Well, he’d been trying to help me and so he hadn’t noticed either, and of course all the OTHER chickens were sauntering out the open door onto the free range, mooning us and smirking as they went.

“I didn’t realize I’d be herding chickens so early in my career,” I remarked, laughing. It wasn’t the first time I’d herded animals by virtue of an open gate. Anyone who’s been around farm animals knows they fully comprehend the implications of an open fence and they take advantage of it.

Greg, for his part, was having a bully of a time.

As I drove them back around the pen I caught Greg’s attention, insistently whispering (because you know, the chickens would have heard and understood anything above a whisper – eyeroll), “Open the door. OPEN THE DOOR.”

And as they came around, at least 3 of them went in the door. Hot damn!

But not the boss pullet.

Noooo, she kept right on going and headed toward the playground and Freedom!

Fortunately she hasn’t really figured out how much she can fly and it was easy to get around her and get her back in. Relatively easy, I should say. Easier than with, say, cattle.

So much for pullets on the lam. That netting over the top of the run is temporary. I had tied it with twine to keep them in and felt it was reasonably secure, but the girls had been jumping up and grabbing the twine for sport. They were successful in untying 2 strategically important pieces – enough to give them an escape route.

Time for that permanent run top.

And for me to stop underestimating these chickens.

I have to admit they’re entertaining as hell, though.

Contest.

Last Saturday was district music contest. Yes, I heard the collective gasp of those of you who’ve experienced the singular nerve-wracking sensation of taking a solo to contest and standing there shaking so badly in front of the judge you can’t play or sing nearly as well as you usually do, and you just know, know, know you blew it. I see you, out there, remembering how you agonized over and micro-analyzed your position in the performances. “Is the judge friendly? Is she saving her good ratings to disperse through the day? Is it better to go in the beginning of the day or end? Is the person before me an amazing player who is going to make me look crappy? Is the person behind me an amazing player who is going to make me look crappy?”

Yeah, good times.

I can think of at least two horror stories from my days of taking solos to contest – one my freshman year and one my senior year. I don’t know why I kept doing it, and looking back I realized I must have really loved it to put myself through that kind of torture each and every year. Or maybe I just thought it was expected. Who knows?

Well, I’ve successfully passed that freaked-out feeling along to the next generation. This year Laurel took her first violin solo to contest as a middle-schooler (my school didn’t participate until high school). She worked hard (even if I had to nag), memorized it, rolled her eyes when I told her to exaggerate her dynamics, rolled her eyes when I said “See-I-told-you-so-your-mom-knows-a-little-something-about-music” when her teacher told her to exaggerate her dynamics, rolled her eyes when I said “Stop-giving-me-dirty-looks-when-I-tell-you-something-needs-to-improve-because-I-know-what-the-judge-is-looking-for-and-if-you-don’t-want-my-help-then-fine,” went for a walk when waiting for results to try to walk off her shaky nerves…

…and then got a “I” rating.

Congratulations, kid! Good job. Your hard work pulled through…and maybe, just maybe I passed a little of that along, too. 

She tells us she is going to repeat this agony again next year. Can’t wait.

Chicken Coop and Run–Almost Done.

We’re almost-but-not-quite-finished with the chicken coop and run, but I couldn’t wait to go ahead and show some photos of our progress.

We don’t have the permanent top on the run yet, but we threw some netting up there so the girls could venture out in the daytime under supervision. Today was the first day they went out. It took them a few minutes to get up the courage not to freak out and rush back in after every little noise, but now they’re thoroughly enjoying the sunshine, the grass, and the few handfuls of scratch grains I tossed in for them. The white powder on the corner of the run? That’s the pricey food-grade diatomaceous earth Ethan spilled by stepping on the bag. Awesome.

Enjoying the sun

This is a shot of the exterior back of the coop. You can see the plug for the heat lamp (which I am still plugging in on cold nights because a) I’m a big softie and b) we have a little white runt who isn’t quite feathered out yet but who is miserable when I isolate her from the bigger gals) and the nest boxes with outside access to the eggs once the girls start laying – hopefully by September.nest boxes and heat lamp plug

Here are the next boxes from the inside – no bedding yet. We don’t want to give anyone the idea these are a good place to sleep:

nest boxes

One of my main concerns was venting. I wanted to be absolutely sure we had as many vents as possible available to open (as you will see, the girls make a huge mess), but I also wanted to be able to close them up during inclement weather (I almost said ‘foul’ weather there, foul/fowl, get it? but couldn’t bring myself to do it). Here, Ethan models one of the side doors without and with its removable vent panel.

removable panels on doors for venting in warm weatherdoor with vent panels in place

Inside we have the roosts, already showing, ahem, “signs of use” and the aforementioned heat lamp. I have to say it’s mighty cute to go out there at dusk and see them all lined up together along the roosts. Also cute is the way the entire structure glows red from the lamp in the dark. It should be particularly interesting when the local sheriff’s deputies show up wanting to know what the hell that glowing red thing in the back yard is.

roosts

Now for the gross part. The girls have been cooped up (okay, haha, had to do that one) for a couple of days in order to train them that yes, this is home, and they should return to it to roost. As such, they’ve been making a gigantic mess and I haven’t cleaned it up yet because they were already skittish about being outside for the first good length of time without me going in there with scrub brushes and the like. So you’ve been warned. The good news is that a lot of what you see below is actually food crumbles. I don’t anticipate them spending a lot of time in the coop other than sleeping and the occasional wandering in for a snack, so I’m hoping this will improve but if it doesn’t, well, they’re animals after all.

messy girls

Here we have the view down the ramp out into the run. The girls had no trouble negotiating the ramp with the rungs – with the exception of the little white runt, who was very hesitant about it altogether, and then when she started down, well…she sort of went skiing down the slope, wings flapping. I’m sure she’ll get it eventually.

View out doorway

Their food and water is also housed in the coop, but I took it out for the photos. Lest you think the girls have been mistreated and aren’t being spoiled as they should be, take a look at this somewhat blurry photo of the corn cob leftovers they picked clean last night:

decimated cobs

Now if I can just train the dog not to aggravate me half to death wanting to go outside and terrorize the chickens by running in circles around their home, we’ll be in business.

Tornadoes at the Science Center.

A few months ago Ethan and I watched “Tornado Intercept” by National Geographic. Ethan was fascinated, not only with the tornadoes but with Sean Casey’s homemade Tornado Intercept Vehicle, which looks like a cross between a tank and the DeLorean from “Back to the Future.” At the time, Mr. Casey was trying to film the moment of impact so he could make a film about it.

Storm chasers are an interesting group, and I think once upon a time Greg and I encountered another storm chaser’s vehicle. I can imagine it would be funscaryexcitingadventurous. 

Well, it took him eight years (I think) but he finally managed it. The Omnimax at the Science Center was showing “Tornado Alley,” the result of Mr. Casey’s work. We were thrilled to find that we picked a day when the TIV and Sean Casey were there.

Ethan sat in all the seats, climbed all over the machine, and was pretty disappointed when it was time to go – which of course is the hallmark of any kid’s good time.

TIVIn the pilot's seatSeated in the throne40 inches into the ground - except maybe in the Ozarks

Dear Spring:

Could you please stop being such a fickle thing and bring me some good planting weather?

Really, these tomatoes are about to organize and demand collective bargaining – I’m already watering them nearly every day to keep up with their demands, and as you can see, they had not been watered as of the moment of this photograph:

tommy-toes

Yes, the nasty Bradford Pears are blooming, our Japanese Cherry is blooming, the grass is starting to green up, and I have the cool-season crops in the garden.

But these tomatoes?

They REALLY need to go in as soon as possible, and you’re not helping me by sending below-average temperatures on days when you’re not pelting me with snow.

Please. Have mercy.

Sincerely,

Michelle