Monday, March 31, 2008

Chores: An Emotional Journey

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It sounded like a good idea at first. Everyone was happy to embark upon the journey together.

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There were chores to do, and everyone agreed to do his or her part in accomplishing the tasks at hand.

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After feeding the steer, we set off for the hay corral. Everyone was still relatively happy. Sort of.

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The horses were definitely happy.

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The ferocious guard dog gave the horse a stern warning about approaching the children.

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The horse ignored him.

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Both horses ignored him, in fact. Kids must be sniffed. Every horse knows that.

After the horses were fed and the children were sufficiently sniffed, we checked on the pairs and made our way to the house. The helpers were starting to shiver. It was time to warm up.

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By the time we made it to the house, the whole ordeal seemed to be taking its toll on the little cowhands.

I asked why he was crying.

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"Cuz, Mom, sometimes people just have to cry when they get cold."

Sunday, March 30, 2008

An Essay on Marital Harmony

As she rounded the corner of their driveway and headed toward home, the farmer’s wife noticed a peculiar sight off to the right. There in the wheat field, right next to the duck pond which sprang up to drown the furrows during the deluge of rain that spring, sat the swather.

The presence of a piece of equipment in the field didn’t normally concern her, but a swather in the middle of the swamp with its header pointed toward the winter wheat caught her attention. Much like those who have near-death experiences, she was suddenly caught in a vision, although her vision was of the future, not the past. She visualized her afternoon plans evaporating, replaced by the chore of pulling a swather out of a swamp.

The vision was interrupted by the sight of her husband standing along the road with his thumb in the air. After careful consideration of her options, she stopped the vehicle and let him in.

Because she has been married for a dozen years, she knew that she must immediately take responsibility for the problem.

“It’s my fault, I’m sure,” she declared.

“Yes, it is. You’re the one who was complaining about the cheatgrass next to the road. I was only trying to make you happy by cutting it down,” came his reply.


It occurred to her that eight or 10 years ago, she wouldn’t have been so wise. She would have asked him what in the world he was thinking by driving the swather into the duck pond. She might even have complained about her afternoon plans being wrecked by the task of pulling the swather out. But now, she is older, wiser, and a bit more sarcastic. That’s why her next statement was obvious to her.

“I would just like to acknowledge that anything that might happen later on today will also be my fault,” she told him. “And I’m sure that something will break.”
He nodded his agreement.

“As long as we’re clear on that,” he said.

She then thought of the young mom who approached her at a recent baby shower to vent her frustrations about all the things she didn’t know when she married a rancher.

Few farm and ranch wives will admonish a young bride about the pitfalls of partnering with an agriculturally inclined man. No one wants to spoil her dream of riding off into the sunset on horseback by explaining that she will be left behind to close the gate and pick up the 14 calves that are trying to turn back away from the cows.

No one wants to blemish the vision of romantic candlelight dinners by telling her that if you’re eating by candlelight, it’s because the power has been off for a few hours and you’re dining on a can of beans. When you do have power and the inclination to cook a nice meal, your spouse is likely to be several hours late, leaving you to vacillate between thoughts like, “I sure hope something hasn’t happened to him,” and “If he’s not laying dead somewhere out there, I’m going to kill him when he gets home.”

It just wouldn’t be right to tell a blushing bride that he will always come to the door and ask her to help move a piece of machinery to another field just as she is laying the baby down for a nap and looking forward to some peace and quiet. It wouldn’t be right to tell her that while her city friends have a week’s vacation to Florida in the summer, the only traveling she’s likely to do in August is a flying trip to town to replace a broken belt on the combine.

Likewise, it would not be tactful to mention to the young groom that his new wife is likely to make more mistakes than he ever thought possible during her first five years on the place. She will drive off in the truck with the emergency brake smoking all the way down the road. She will ruin a rim by driving a mile on a flat. She will burn the bread for harvest dinner, and she will overfill the grain bin.

It would not be wise to tell a new groom that his wife will have significant trouble learning to decipher his sign language while they are moving cows. When he clearly means to open the gate over by the old Jones place, she will read the hand signals as a command to ride back to the house and pour herself a nice cool drink of lemonade.

When the two are working cows in the corral, she will let all the wrong pairs through the sorting gate. She will constantly be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he will feel compelled to teach her a thing or two about working cattle. He will be mystified when she reacts to his teachings with either a volcanic fury or a torrent of tears, and he will be equally confused by her indignation that he expects her to have a meal on the table the moment they return to the house.

The wise woman realizes that working cows is a chore that must be done, and chances are high that she will get yelled at and will have to yell back. Then they will never speak of the incident again.

The seasoned farm wife knows that passing along all this information would be too overwhelming for a new bride. Instead, she should know just three things.

First of all, in the first few months of marriage, a new bride should never do something that she doesn’t want to do for the rest of her life. For example, if she admits that she knows how to run a swather, she can expect that she will be responsible for that task for perpetuity. Sometimes it’s best not to be too eager to help out.

Secondly, she needs to know that she should have no expectations and make no plans. That way she will avoid the disappointment of missed appointments, weddings, dinners, trips, and checks.

Lastly, as illustrated by the incident of the swather in the swamp, she must always admit fault right away. If she informs her partner that she is guaranteed to miss a gear, turn the wrong way, or stall it out, he is rendered incapable of being angry at her. After all, he was told what to expect. And so, when the tow chain breaks and the farm wife who is in the swather is turning the wheels in the wrong direction, they just might be able to share a laugh instead of an angry exchange.

Disclaimer: The above story is for entertainment purposes only. Any resemblance to an actual person or event is purely coincidental, especially if that person is married to the writer.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I Like Red Cows

Since entering the cattle business several years ago, my husband and I have taken opposite positions on the subject of genetics. His goal is for our herd to become completely black. My goal is for our herd to become completely cute. Since I'm not necessarily of the opinion that solid black equals cute, we have a discrepancy. A conflict. A marital dispute.

With only 10 cows left to calve this year, we have only one calf on the ground that is not entirely black. And it's a steer, which means it will not remain in the herd. I'm grumpy about that.

I'm so grumpy about it that I went through the archives of my pictures and found some not-black cows.

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There are only two problems. First of all, these pictures were taken with old camera, and they're just not that good.


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Secondly, these are not even our cows. They're my dad's. You can kind of see him in the corner of this picture.


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This is his pickup, too. He ought to open up a petting zoo. The kids wouldn't even have to get their feet dirty because the cows just come right up and stick their heads in the window.

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Their cute red heads.

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But I guess our black calves are okay, too. At least they're not chickens.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Two Kids in a Grocery Cart

When I go grocery shopping, I use one of those extended carts which require half an acre to turn around in the store. On a good day, I only take out two or three senior citizens during my trip through the aisles. The cart is that long because it has a seating area for small children, complete with a double buckle system that can be pulled tight enough that the little buggers can't take deep breaths, let alone move. The only fault to the system is that their extremities are still free so that if the driver of the cart isn't careful, an entire shelf of chocolate fudge Jello pudding can hit the floor after a two-year-old takes a swipe at it with her left foot. Or so I'm told.

I'm proud to say that I can fit three of my children into the cart, securely buckled, and still have room for $300 worth of groceries in the cart. That leaves just one child to wander away from me and get lost. And that's okay, because going shopping with three children is quite enough of a challenge. Someone else can deal with the fourth one.

Today I had the luxury of shopping with just two kids while the other two were in school. The shopping trip took place after the hour-long drive to town, the two hours we spent at the doctor's office to confirm the clearing up of one ear infection and the development of one sinus infection, and the trip to the courthouse to license a vehicle. I thought that the 12 times the children ran up and down several flights of stairs in the courthouse would work to my advantage by exhausting them to the point of quietness. I thought wrong.

While I can't really say that they were naughty during the trip, I can verify that they were anything but quiet. The babbled on and on to each other, other shoppers, and the plastic dogs that they smuggled into the store without my knowledge.

I retained my patience, even through the 17 times that I stooped over to retrieve a plastic dog off the floor, until they began bickering like an old married couple.

One of the exchanges sounded like this:

4-year-old: "You don't know what you're talking about 'cuz you're just a baby."

2-year-old: "I not a baby."

4-year-old: "Are too."

2-year-old: "I NOT a baby. I Emma."


4-year-old: "Are too a baby. What's 2 plus 2?"

2-year-old: "I don't know."


4-year-old: "See? You're a baby, 'cuz you don't know math. You don't even know how to spell."

2-year-old: "I NOT A BABY. MAMA!!! I NOT A BABY. WAAAAAAHHHHH."


The 4-year-old was later recounting the day's events to his older siblings.

4-year-old: "See, the girl looked at my ears and my mouth, and then she said the doctor would come. So Dr. Seuss came in and made me cough, and she said she saw a great big slime of stuff back in my throat, so I gotta have that medicine."

10-year-old: "Dr. Seuss?"

4-year-old: "Yeah, Dr. Seuss looked at my gooky throat."

10-year-old: "Dr. Seuss writes books. He's not really a doctor."

6-year-old: "Dr. Seuss died. He's not even alive anymore. He didn't look at your throat."

4-year-old: "No, it wasn't a he. It was a girl. Dr. Seuss."

And this, my friends, is why I only go to town for groceries twice a month.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Defining Rural

Some people define rural as having a big backyard.

Some people define rural as living in the suburbs.

Some people define rural as living outside the range of the city water supply.

Those people don't live in Montana.

In Montana, rural means that the distance to your nearest neighbor is measured in miles. It means that the number of students in your child's grade in school is a single digit. It means that you look out your back window and see this:

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In Montana, rural means that you don't get cell service, DSL, daily mail service, or pizza delivery.

When you live in rural Montana, you learn to have a well-stocked pantry, and you learn to cook. My family doesn't care for frozen pizza, so when the craving strikes, I head to my KitchenAid mixer and start some dough. Here's my trusty recipe:

2 1/4 tsp. yeast
1/2 tsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 tsp. salt
2 T olive oil
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. Italian seasoning

Here's what I do:

Mix the yeast, brown sugar, and water. The water should be just a touch hotter than what you would shower in. Let that foam for a few minutes. Then toss in the salt, olive oil, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning. Add 2 cups of the flour and mix for about 2 minutes. Then gradually add the rest of the flour. Take the dough out of the bowl, spray the bowl with Pam, and replace the dough. Spray the top of the dough with Pam and cover with a dish towel. Let rise in a warm place for an hour.

While that's rising, make your sauce. Here's my trusty recipe:

6 oz. tomato paste
6 oz. warm water
3 T Parmesan
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 T honey
3/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. each:
oregano
marjoram
basil
pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes

Mix all those ingredients and let sit for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

When the dough is doubled in size, call in the subordinates. It's time to put them to work.

This recipe makes one giant, thick pizza crust. If you prefer your pizza with a thin crust, use this recipe to make two pizzas. I like my pizza with a substantial crust, so I use the recipe for one crust.

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Punch down the dough and let it sit for a couple of minutes. Spray a pizza stone or pan with Pam, and then plunk the dough down in the middle.

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Let the subordinate do the heavy work. You don't want to break a nail.

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Once it is rolled out on the stone, use your fingers to make a ridge around the edges. Then get another subordinate to apply an ample coating of sauce.

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Because I was feeling lazy on this particular night, I cheated. Don't tell. Use the recipe for the sauce above; it's much better than this stuff.

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Once the sauce is professionally distributed, employ another subordinate to be the hand model for the photo shoot.

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Now you need to choose your toppings. I haven't been to the grocery store in a couple of weeks, so my options are pretty limited. We're going to go with pre-shredded cheese, pepperoni, and mushrooms (just to gross out my sister). I'm not a big fan of the grease in the pepperoni, so I put several paper towels on a plate, place the pepperoni on top, and cover with another paper towel. Then I microwave it for a minute or so.

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That's just gross.

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See what I have saved my family from ingesting?

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Meanwhile, the subordinates are laying on the cheese.

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I like a mixture of Parmesan, Provolone, Romano, Cheddar, and Mozzarella.

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Then the subordinates put on the additional toppings. This picture is for my sister. Mmmmmm, mushrooms. We use the canned variety because we're rural. We don't just pop over to the grocery store for some fresh mushrooms. If we were going to drive that far, we'd just go to Pizza Hut and forget this whole production.

Put the pizza in the center rack of the oven for 20-30 minutes, depending on how heavy-handed the subordinates were with the cheese.

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It should look something like this. Remember that it's more important for the subordinates to help in the experience than it is for the end product to be beautiful. Try not to notice the sauce that sloshed over onto the edge or the wayward cheese that ended up halfway off the crust. Just relish the bonding experience with the children.

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Besides, it tastes pretty good. It doesn't have to be pretty. Or fat free.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Q & A #3 (aka The Meanest Mom Ever)

How did you get such a big pile of manure? Are your cows trained? – Anonymous

Ah, yes. The cows are trained to follow the tractor to the feeding ground, to follow the trail to water, to calve at 3 a.m., and to walk directly past any open gate that you want them to go through. They drop manure anywhere they please, thank you very much, and they’re not graceful or respectful about it. I have the splattered jeans tonight to prove it.

The big pile of manure is the result of my spouse scooping up the piles of stuff in the corral, where it is concentrated because the cows congregate there to escape the sun, the wind, or the precipitation. He uses a loader to dump it into a big pile, where it breaks down and emits a delightful smell that can be detected nearly a mile away. At some point, we hire someone to load it into a truck and disperse it over a field where it serves as fertilizer. If we were smart, we would put it in plastic bags, label it with the terms "natural" and "organic," and sell it to city people to beautify their lawns and flower beds. But we're not that smart.

Why do I recognize 98% of the clothing that cute little EL is wearing? – Colleen

Perhaps it’s because I’m too cheap frugal fashion-disabled poor smart to buy my kids their own clothes when I know my older more mature sister was nice enough to have kids before I did.

My gosh, does your family rent you out? - Mrs. K's Lemonade Stand

My oldest child, who refers to me as “the meanest mom EVER,” would gladly rent me out. He would be thrilled to be rid of me for awhile and collect the rent money to buy more CDs with which to drive me crazy when I returned. (His favorite songs include “The Final Countdown,” “Macarena,” and “YMCA," Lord help me.)

What is the main lesson
your grandparents have taught you? - Life with Spirit

I’m not sure I could narrow it down to a single lesson. I think we were raised with the understanding that our grandparents were to be honored and respected, and that seems to be a rare attitude among today’s youth. My grandparents taught me the values of hard work, faith in God, conservation, and being content with what I have. Grandpa taught me how to fish and how to say less that means more. Grandma taught me how faith can sustain a person through the most difficult times. My other Grandma taught me how to plant a seed and nurture it, harvest it, can it, and cook it. She is an expert at providing something from nothing because she’s been doing it all her life. Although I didn’t know my Granddad for most of my life, I am sure that his legacy lives on through my respect for and gentleness with animals.

Well done.. Was it a cow or the deer that he saw? Love the picture btw! :-) – Sandy

It was a cow. I figured you’ve all seen enough pictures of our cows, so I threw in the picture of the deer in the flower bed because you really never know what you’ll find in our yard. By the odor I smelled wafting through the air when I checked the cows awhile ago, I’m afraid that a skunk is hovering nearby at the moment.

Does Shane read your Blog? - Suz

Yes, he does. As a matter of fact, he had never taken much interest in my photography until I started this blog; now I walk past the computer and find him on my Flickr page browsing through the pictures.

Hey Erin. Do you remember "Super Mom" and "Broken Bottle"?? Was wondering....what would your CB handle be? - Brother in Christ

For those who are out of “the loop,” our parents used CB radios to communicate on the ranch when we were growing up. “Super Mom” was the handle my mom went by, and Dad’s handle was “Broken Bottle.” In reference to my son’s opinion of me, mine would have to be “The Meanest Mom EVER,” I suppose. My only other nickname is the shortening of my name, like “Er,” but I’m not sure how that would be spelled. “Air?” Actually, “Err” seems more appropriate, doesn’t it?

I'd like to know your laundry secrets. Your family always looks so nice. You must have some really good laundry skills. - Portia

Well, you can read about my laundry traditions here. I really don’t have many secrets; I love my new front-loading Maytag washer, and I use Gain HE detergent because it performed well in consumer testing and it smells good. I throw in a scoop of Oxi-Clean in most loads because I’m too lazy to pre-treat all 16 pairs of the kids’ jeans in each load. Actually, I don’t even have a pre-treating stain remover in my cupboard. If something looks really stained, I just rub some detergent straight on it before I throw it in the washer.

How much time do you spend on your blog-posts each night? - Anonymous

Well, that depends on the night. Most nights it takes me less than 20 minutes. Sometimes it takes me five minutes because I just use a column from my 10 years of archives. The Q & A posts tend to take the longest, especially when my sister asks questions.

Speaking of my sister, here she goes again:

What would you order if you were to purchase a brand new computer today (ie - if you were me)? Would you send me the link? – Colleen

I'm feeling a little bit broke right now, so if I were going to purchase a computer, it would probably be something like this:


















The reason I'm feeling so poor is that I opened a bill from a local implement dealership yesterday and nearly had heart failure when I saw the bottom line. They washed the skidsteer, replaced some O-rings, and tinkered a bit, and I think we are probably going to have to indenture one of our children to pay the bill.

Could you share one of your favorite recipes that you have made with the help of your children? - BoufMom9

Come back tomorrow. . . I’ll show you how we compensate for the lack of a delivery service out here in the country.

Q & A Day

Questions, anyone?

Today is Q & A Day. Click on "Comments" below to ask a question.

Just don't ask me about the cattle market, the weather, or how we're going to put four kids in braces and get them through college. Those questions are too tough to answer.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Praying for Rain

Last spring, we had so much moisture that we could barely make it into the fields to farm. The cows had grass to graze and water to drink. I was tired of mud.

This year, we're watching scenes of flooding on the TV. Our friends in Wisconsin have had somewhere near eight feet of snow this winter. It seems like the whole country has more moisture than the earth can hold.

But we are dry. We are dry enough that we're considering selling cows because the water in the pastures will be scarce. We're dry enough that the wind is blowing clouds of dirt across the fields. We're dry enough that it doesn't smell like spring out there; it smells like dust.

Because I am an optimist, I am confident that the jet stream will shift, the clouds will align, and by the time we move cows to summer pasture, it will look like this:

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Besides, our four-year-old prayed for rain today, and I think that prayer was too cute for denial.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Wake Up Call

Have you ever noticed that the manner in which you wake up sets the stage for your entire day?

Waking up to a fresh breeze, the sounds of birds chirping in the sunlight, and the warm scents of summer wafting over your face brings a sense of peace and optimism to the day. The sputtering of the coffeepot and the rich smells of a fresh cup under your nose can awaken your senses and give you the energy to face the day.

I have heard that there are pleasant ways to wake up, but I don’t remember them personally, because the last time I woke up pleasantly was, I believe, in the early 1990s.

Since then, I can categorize my methods of waking up by degree of unpleasantness. Among the least offensive ways I’ve been woken recently is by alarm clock, which is rarely necessary in a house with four young children and a farmer. One of them is nearly always awake by 5 a.m., so an alarm clock is only utilized during calving when night checks occur.

The telephone is never a pleasant way to wake up. If the telephone is ringing after 11 or before 5, which is usually the only time it could wake me up, it is usually not good news. Besides, the person who is calling inevitably forces you to lie when you answer.

“Hi there. Did I wake you up?”

“Uh, no. Nope. Not me. I wasn’t sleeping,” you mumble as you glance at the clock and realize how ridiculous it is to lie about that at 5:30 a.m. Both you and the caller know good and well that you were, in fact, sleeping, but rare is the person who actually admits it at any time of the night or morning. Instead, you try to subtly disguise the sounds of wiping the drool off your face and coughing up the phlegm that has accumulated in your throat during your sleep.

Other unfortunate ways to wake up involve children. Some of these awakenings cause only brief exits from your bed, such as when the baby loses his pacifier and you trudge, still half-asleep, across the house to replace it. After four children, I can walk across the house with my eyes completely closed, barring the presence of a Hot Wheels car that will hurtle me across the kitchen and skate me into the refrigerator. I rarely lose any sleep on the brief trips to the kids’ rooms since I am usually not completely awake.

Some situations require full consciousness, however, such as the “thump and scream,” which moms everywhere will recognize as the child falling out of bed. This requires a mom’s full attention and a good 10 minutes of consolation and several smooches.

The crying baby, the coughing child, the nightmare, and the “I really gotta go” are all nuisances which can be tolerated fairly well because you can usually catch some sleep after they are dealt with. Some child-related awakenings can even be construed as partially pleasant, if you can concentrate on the joy of snuggling a toddler and disregard the time on the clock or the pressure of the child’s heel in your eye socket as she struggles to find a comfortable spot.

Animal awakenings are rarely pleasant, easily resolved, nor indicative of a good day to come. Anything scurrying across the floor promises a full night of hunting and wondering what it is and where it is headed. Even the smallest creatures can destroy a perfectly good night’s sleep. I spent many a night trying to eradicate the crickets that would keep me up all night in our old house, wielding a sandal as a weapon and quieting them only to go back to bed and hear several more chime in.

Last night I was awakened by the sound of a dog digging in the gravel. This morning, a perfectly circular hole remained in the front driveway. I have no idea why the dog felt it necessary to dig through a deep layer of gravel and clay so dry it resembles concrete, but he persisted for at least an hour and 20 minutes, and as is usually the case, the sound was magnified by the effort I exerted in trying desperately to get back to sleep.

I usually don’t mind barking so much, because that usually forces the man of the house outside with the rifle to take care of whatever creature has invaded the dog’s space.

This morning, however, it was an animal of a different species that managed to ruin the day. The baby had finally slept past 6 a.m. and I was snoozing away at 6:20, a rare treat for me, when the sound of a disgruntled farmer woke me up. He had looked out the kitchen window and, instead of basking in the glow of the glorious sunlight, he spotted a cow in the yard.

Awakening to any problem involving cows or other critters is bound to wreck your day. I never thought I would say it, but I kind of miss the sound of my alarm clock.

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You never know what you'll wake up to on a Montana morning.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Notes to Myself

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1. Spend the extra $10 and get the anti-reflective coating on the kids' glasses next time.

2. After the camera has rattled around in the diaper bag for a few hours, check to make sure the settings aren't goofed up before taking the annual Easter photo.

3. Buy the boys some decent clothes for holidays instead of rummaging around in the hand-me-down pile the night before Easter in search of something that isn't too wrinkled and doesn't clash with the girls' new dresses.

4. When church begins at 8 a.m., I must wake up before 6:45 a.m. or else there won't be time to fix my daughter's hair.

5. The night before Easter is not the right time to remember to buy the girls some spring shoes so they don't have to wear their black patent leather Christmas shoes with their pastel spring dresses.

6. Put some lotion on that boy so he will quit scratching his arm and maybe crack a smile for the camera.

7. Next time the four-year-old tries on his sister's Easter hat, have the camera ready. It could make for some good bribe material during his teenage years.

8. Take more pictures of moments like this:

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

What? He's Not Here?

It turns out they're listening after all.

This is what I found on my fridge tonight after having had a lengthy conversation with my kids concerning what to expect in their Easter baskets in the morning. We have never put the focus of the day on what is in the baskets, but I wanted them to be prepared for what they might not find there in the morning.

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My six-year-old drew this after she cheerfully told me that it was okay if she didn't have anything in her basket because she's so happy that Jesus is risen. For those of you who are not crayon art experts, that's a tomb, and those are Biblical figures who are discovering the absence of Jesus' body. The tomb is a fantastic three-dimensional creation of construction paper and half a roll of Scotch tape. The whole works is held on to the background paper with an ample amount of Elmer's glue and some more Scotch tape, just in case. It would not be right if Jesus' tomb fell off the fridge door.

In my desire to keep tomorrow simple and focused, the Easter baskets are not overflowing this year.

But after seeing my fridge decoration tonight, my heart is.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Easter Traditions

I love the joy of Easter Sunday. I love the new spirit of life within the church, the new blades of grass poking through the dead stalks, and the new smell of the earth as the spring sun overpowers the chill of winter.

I'm not so fond of some of the traditions associated with Easter. I have philosophical issues with some of the cultural expectations of Easter, and I have practical issues with others, such as dyeing eggs.

Despite my inner grumblings at making a disaster out of my kitchen and staining all the kids' hands with dye for the next week, I dutifully boiled three dozen eggs and doled them out for the children to decorate today.

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The little one dove right in to the process. I was beginning to think that my fears were unfounded. They kids were using the tools provided and were not making a mess at all.

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The fussy child, in fact, barely got a fingertip wet during the entire process.

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There were a few drips, but nothing catastrophic. . . until I turned my back for a split second.

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The two-year-old began diving elbow-deep in dye. See those hands? Permanently purple. But that was the least of my problems.

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While she was diving into the dye, she managed to knock over a cup and flood the table, including the paint tray that her siblings were so carefully using.

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The paint was washed out, and the fussy child was left with a naked egg.

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We banished her to the sink to soak her stained hands. She only spilled a gallon or two on the floor.

Meanwhile, the other kids made do with the remaining dye. While I watched them, I was struck by how their eggs mirrored their disparate personalities.

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The oldest child used muted colors and a variety of techniques.

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The mess maker youngest child had the most vibrant colored eggs.

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The princess had feminine eggs adorned with hearts, stickers, and a pink undertone on each egg.

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The fussy child managed to color half of his eggs in the time it took the others to dye their eggs, wash up, have a snack, and play for half an hour. He would still be there, painstakingly applying colors, if his little sister hadn't threatened to finish the job for him.

I'd like to say it was a fun-filled family afternoon in which I patiently instructed the children on the egg's symbolic significance within the Resurrection. Unfortunately, I must confess that I began pulling my hair out and pounding my head against the wall lost my patience somewhere between the spilling of the dye and the seventh time that someone dropped an egg and cried.

The result of my long day of family fun? Eight stained hands, one freshly bleached tablecloth, one ruined shirt, and three dozen brightly colored eggs that no one wants me to crack open and eat. Ahhh, traditions.

 
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