Friday, January 30, 2009

Bath Time

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Come here, Mister.

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You need to clean behind your ears.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

It's A Boy

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The first calf of the year is on the ground. It's a boy, and he has very long eyelashes.

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Playmates should be arriving soon.

Brace yourselves for a barrage of calf photos.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Busted

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"Oh, man. She caught me in the recliner."

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"What was I thinking? She'll never let me in the house now that she knows I'm not cold and pathetic."

Monday, January 26, 2009

Wondering

Whenever I peruse a news magazine, watch television, or listen to a radio broadcast, I usually find myself muttering, “What kind of people . . . ?”

For example, what kind of people rush to call their doctor at the urging of prescription medication advertisements that do not even disclose the ailment that they treat? I can just hear that conversation.

“Hello, Doctor. This is John Smith calling. I’d like to know if the prescription drug Miracle is right for me.”

“Well, John, I’m afraid not. You really don’t need any estrogen supplements at this time.”

What kind of people really believe advertisements for political candidates? Don’t people realize that you can make a person’s voting record say whatever you want it to say? If a lawmaker voted against a bill that would triple spending on social services, his opponent can run an ad accusing him of being anti-family when, in reality, he was being realistic with budget constraints.

What kind of people believe that they have the right to sue the manufacturer of a power tool because they failed to understand that it would cut off a finger if the finger made contact with the spinning blade?

What kind of people really believe that it’s a good idea to import all of our food and turn the western half of the United States into a wilderness refuge?

What kind of people are so threatened by the Ten Commandments that they find it necessary to wage a nasty court battle so that they do not have to look at them?

What kind of people think it’s necessary to package children’s toys in such a way that it takes three men, a large knife, and two pairs of pliers to remove the item from the box, wires, and plastic encompassing it? Are they afraid that the child may actually get to play with the toy someday if the parents are smart enough to make their way through the 20 wire twisty ties?

These must be the same people who make the foil seals on yogurt and individual servings of applesauce. No matter what technique you use to remove the seal, the contents of the carton inevitably splat across your face, your shirt, or your child’s face and shirt.

Maybe they have formed a conspiracy with the people who manufacture music CDs. Since it is nearly impossible to open those cases, I believe we should hire the same folks to design our prisons. Breakouts would become unattainable.

Lastly, I've been wondering. . . what kind of people read this blog? Do me a favor and leave a note in the comments of this post and tell me something about you. It would be nice to have closure on at least one of the questions on my mind today.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Comfort Food

I don't think I need to post any more pictures of snow to convince you that the past two months have been cold.

My job as head chef of the outfit is to make sure everyone has a belly full of warm food before they head outdoors.

However, cooking can be a challenge when a trip to the grocery store is a monthly ordeal privilege. When fresh ingredients are not available, I rely on a well stocked pantry, a large capacity freezer full of food, and my imagination.

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Today's lunch was chicken potpie, made the way my kids like it. I make this dish differently every time I serve it based upon the ingredients I have on hand, but I always start with a stick of butter thrown into a saucepan, followed by a chopped onion and about a cup of chopped carrots. Celery is an option as well, but I don't have any right now.

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Saute over medium heat until the veggies are tender.

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Then I add a half cup of flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of thyme, salt and pepper to taste, and about 2 1/2 cups of chicken broth. I say "about" because I have never actually measured it. It needs to be thick, but not clumpy. Once the vegetables are added, it will become thinner as it cooks.

Then it's time to stir in whatever else you like in your potpie. I must have potatoes in my version, and this is the only time in my cooking career that I use the canned variety. I will not, however, use canned peas. They're just gross. I thaw about a cup and a half of frozen peas in the microwave and add them to the mix. Today I also used a can of green beans, but I've been known to use a bag of frozen mixed vegetables or some asparagus as well. When I make this dish, I prefer to use a few chopped, cooked chicken breasts, but unless I wanted to do some butchering today, that option wasn't available. I used a can of chicken instead.

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Once it's stirred together, I sometimes decide that it needs to be creamier, so I add a can of cream of chicken soup. I know that it's cheating, but this recipe isn't exactly gourmet at its finest.

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I heat all the miscellaneous ingredients until bubbling hot. Once the mixture looks good, I spread it in a greased 9x13 pan.

Now comes the real cheating.

My kids don't really like pie crust. Remember?

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So I use Grands flaky biscuits out of the can. I know it's ridiculous, but the kids like it. And it's easy.

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You have to use the flaky layer biscuits because the layers peel apart, making it possible to overlap and make a crust over the top.

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Then I bake it at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes. Check it to make sure the biscuits aren't getting too brown. The only way you can go wrong in this recipe is to undercook it so the bottoms of the biscuits are slimy. To prevent that, make sure the mixture is good and hot before you put the biscuits on top.

That's it! It's a lunch fit for a queen.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Perfect Wedding Gift

I love to give practical wedding gifts. A potluck cookbook wrapped in flour sack dish towels with a pot holder for decoration is frequently my offering at a bridal shower.

I rarely give decorative items to new brides, but that may be changing.

A faithful blog reader has created a needlepoint design that can be adapted for a variety of tastes, and I'm thinking this might make the perfect throw pillow for a new farm wife.

Here's what Star says:

I was inspired by your blog on marital harmony, and created just for you a farm wife-inspired design for needlepoint that you, or your readers, might enjoy.

It purposefully has only the words paraphrased from your blog entry, so that one’s own designs can be entered into the border, to adapt it to individual taste, and the black-and-white can be changed to suit one’s own color preferences.

The grid is 297x297 holes.

If one uses 18 holes-per-inch needlepoint canvas as I do, the design measures 16 ½ x 16 ½”, and is perfect for a 16x16” pillow, otherwise, the border can be reduced, and it easily can be adapted for the center in a 10 holes-per-inch needlepoint canvas.

Though the special needs of needlepoint have been kept in mind while designing the letters, it can be used for cross-stitch, too.


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Thanks, Star! I must say this is the first time my writing has inspired a craft!

If you would like to have the design emailed to you, please feel free to contact me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Passenger

Every now and then, I scan the folders of my hard drive to see what lingers there. One of the benefits of being a writer, I suppose, is that each piece of writing holds a memory or two that would have otherwise slipped away over time.

Some pieces, like the one that follows, remind me to be thankful for those who reach out to make a difference in the lives of my children.

"The Passenger"
ⓒ 2005

The loss of one person from a small rural community can leave a hole so gaping that every person for miles around feels the wound. So it was in our little town last week.

Tommy was many things to many people, and the magnitude of his life could be seen through the extensive list of his involvements and accomplishments. But the true goodness of Tommy was shown to me through the heart of a little boy.

In his forty-year career of driving a school bus, Tommy had driven hundreds of kids to countless destinations. That makes it all the more remarkable that he would take the time to befriend the little boy who sits all alone at the front of the bus.

In the 30 minutes that the two of them spent together as that bus bumped its way along the gravel road to and from school every weekday, Tommy must have answered thousands of questions. The purpose of every button, latch, and knob in the bus was undoubtedly explained to satisfy the curiosity of a little mind that never stops churning. Reports of these conversations would arise at home.

“Mom, Tommy told me how the clutch in the bus works.”

“Mom, Tommy says that our old bus is better than that highway bus. And he doesn’t like those automatic transmissions.”

“Mom, can we listen to 92.5 on the radio? Tommy says that’s the best station, and it has the best farm news.”

Not only did Tommy unfailingly answer every inquiry, but he made sure that this little mind, so full of the details of how things work, did not forget to arrive home with his jacket, gloves, hat, and backpack each day.

On Wednesdays, the two of them developed their own sign language denoting whether it would be Bible school or a bus ride home at 3:30.

And when it was time for the little boy to descend the stairs of the bus and go home, Tommy would never let him go by without giving him “five.” Occasionally, the straight-faced bus driver would offer the first grader a beer and a chew of tobacco, too, which would elicit a crooked grin, the joy of having a buddy to joke with reflecting in his eyes.

So when it was time for him to descend the stairs and walk past the driver’s seat occupied by someone else, the little boy paused, as if Tommy could somehow reach out to slap his hand one last time. He stared out the window into the distance for a moment, comprehending the loss that transcended the silence, and slowly stepped off the bus, disoriented and heartbroken.

In his very special way, Tommy made a difference in this young life. He could have chosen to simply drive the bus, but instead, he chose to devote himself to his passengers. He was far more than a bus driver. In a world that can be confusing and overwhelming for my little boy, Tommy was an ally, a caretaker, and a rare friend.

With any kind of luck, that little boy who sits all alone in the front of the bus might someday grow up with just a bit of the goodness of Tommy tucked away inside him. For that, I am so grateful.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Quick Q&A

I have neglected the questions in the comments for quite some time now. I don't remember where I left off, so here are the answers to the most recent questions.

Ethan, Zach, and Emma's Mom said...
Hey, how'd you do that?

I used Photoshop Elements to combine three photos into one and saved it as a GIF.

Bush Babe said...
My Lord... I froze just looking at that first pic! What do you DO all day in the house? Are you fabulous at board games? Or scrapbooking? Or do your kids have Nintendo DS's to entertain??

We do, indeed, play many board games. My kids think they're called "bored" games. We also like to bake, read, or play Wii when we're stuck inside.

Amy Jo said...
why do they have to be outside? why do you think collies can be out in freezing weather? they are not wolves, they are domesticated animals. i just dont understand the cruelty.

They have to be outside because the temperature is in the 40s and they are enjoying the sunshine.

Having been a "mom" to a border collie for 13 years now, I can attest that cruelty for these dogs would be leaving them indoors every time there is snow on the ground. They are quite content to be outside where they can herd the chickens, bark at the deer, watch over the kids, and work the cows when they are asked to do so.

When they are tired, they each retreat to their private, insulated doghouse with their own fluffy blanket and bowl of food. When the temperatures dip too low, they curl up in the recliner in the shop with the furnace blowing warm air on them all night long.

Thank you for the revelation that they're not wolves, though. I feel much better knowing that my children's playmates are actually domesticated.

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I'd feel pretty silly letting a wolf in the house to nap with the kids.

Monday, January 19, 2009

It's a Well Known Fact

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It's a well known fact in the equine world that only the very center of the bale is worth eating.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Meanest Mom Ever

It's a well known fact that I'm the Meanest Mom Ever.

But the new kid on the block hasn't figured that out yet.

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"It's awfully chilly out here."

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"I wonder if Mom will let me in the house."

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"How about if I dab a little snow on my nose and look cold?"

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"What if I look cold and pathetic?"

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"How about if I look cold, pathetic, and make direct eye contact?"

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"Don't even bother asking, buddy. She's not falling for it today."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Snowy Day

This is just a glimpse of why we tolerate subzero temperatures, gumbo roads, infrequent trips to the grocery store, and lack of pizza delivery.

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There is a beauty about a quiet, snowy day in the country that just defies verbal description.

I guess that's why I have a camera.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Farmer's Daughter

Every now and then, our kids provide evidence that they are, indeed, country kids. Such was the case yesterday when our daughter brought home this worksheet:

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When you're a farmer's daughter, you learn about drought at a young age. By second grade, you have a thorough understanding of it, and if the puddle is drying up, you're not far away from a drought.

That's my girl.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sea Kittens

In this era of political correctness, Montana has received a rash of requests to change names of roads, landmarks, towns, counties, and school mascots in recent years. Home to seven Indian reservations, the state has a variety of names that include references to Native Americans, and those monikers have been the focus of most of the PC attention.

Lately, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has joined the list of organizations who are trying to save us all from our own ignorance. PETA's two million supporters are launching a campaign to change the name of Whitefish High School, named logically after the town of Whitefish in which it stands, to Sea Kitten High School.

PETA's Dan Shannon wrote a letter delineating the request to the superintendent of Whitefish High School. He asserts, "Most parents would never dream of spending a family weekend torturing kittens, but hooking fish through their mouths and pulling them through the water is just as painful as hooking a cat's mouth and dragging him or her behind a car. We're hoping that this name change will encourage people young and old to start treating these gentle 'kittens of the sea' with respect and show them the kindness that they deserve."

The high school football team is undoubtedly delighted with the idea of hearing "Go, Sea Kitten High School" chanted at their games, especially in light of the fact that their team mascot is a bulldog.

While PETA clearly knows that their request will be denied, they also know that their objective has succeeded. They attracted media attention for their cause.

This is not their only victory in recent weeks. Their website lists success headlines that include the ending of frog jump contests and pig kissing events.

I'm sure the frogs and pigs are relieved to not be subjected to the humiliation of such activities.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Worth The Wait

The day we had planned to travel to see my family after Christmas, the weather changed our itinerary.

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Looking out the window to see snow flying horizontally has the general effect of making a person want to stay inside.

We waited a week until the snow quit falling, the roads cleared off, and the temperature stayed above zero for a consistent period of time.

We saw aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents during our 28 hour getaway.

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It was worth the wait.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Well Balanced Diet

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For this child,

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the well balanced diet includes a daily serving of snow.

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It's best enjoyed without the interference of utensils.

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And the best part is that it's readily available whenever the craving strikes.

Luckily, if overindulgence is a problem, the remedy is as close as Mama's kitchen: hot chocolate, heavy on the marshmallows.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

By The Numbers

25 - days since I last went grocery shopping
45 - miles to the store
2 - children along to help me
1 - husband who kept filling the vehicle with items I wasn't planning to bring home
8 - hours we were gone
1 - time I remembered to take the kids to the bathroom
4 - feet of cash register tape it took to record all my purchases
80 - dollars I "saved" on "sale" items
1 - stop at a machinery dealership
1 - new John Deere brochure obtained by the five-year-old farmer
27 - times someone said "stop copying me" on the way home
7 - items that fell out of the vehicle when we opened the rear door
2 - hours it took me to put all the groceries away while simultaneously fixing supper
4 - pages in the new John Deere brochure that we read for a bedtime story
1 - very tired mama who is happy we don't have to do this again any time soon

Monday, January 5, 2009

Lists

I am a compulsive list maker.

I cannot function through a day without making and consulting several lists. I am not sure when this habit began, but I’m pretty sure that it was prior to the loss of my memory, which coincided with the birth of my last child. Now that my capacity to remember things on my own is gone, I rely on my lists from the moment I awake until I fall into an exhausted sleep at the end of the day.

One of the problems with my lists now that I have no memory is that I tend to lose them. I spend an inordinate amount of time searching for lost lists and making new ones once I resign to the fact that the old ones are gone. My daughter, who has a fetish for throwing things in the garbage, probably finds great joy in watching me search for lists that she has deposited in a grimy refried beans can.

Despite the obstacles I face in my list-making endeavors, I still rely on them to keep my life in some semblance of organization. In the morning, I make a list of what I need to accomplish during the day. Many times, I list things as simple as “shower” and “feed the kids.” It’s not that I would forget to do these things if I didn’t write them down; rather, I feel a great sense of accomplishment as I cross items off the list once they are accomplished. As any mother of young children will testify, taking a shower can be a major accomplishment.

At the end of the day, I use the list as a measure of my success. If I can still find the list by the time the kids are in bed, I feel extremely successful. If at least half the list is crossed off, it has been an exceptional day. I rarely cross everything off the list. I purposefully put more on the list than I could ever accomplish in a day so that I have a bit of a challenge. The remaining items are transferred to tomorrow’s list.

Aside from the daily lists and grocery lists, I have also taken to making a variety of other lists throughout the years. I have learned that if we go on an overnight trip, I must painstakingly list every single item that we need to take and cross it off as it is placed in the vehicle. Otherwise, crucial items such as a favorite blankie, diapers, or my own socks are sure to be forgotten in the rush.

When I go to town, I no longer just take a list of the items I need to purchase. I make a list of the items I need to take, a list of the places I need to go and a sub-list of what I need to do at each place, and a list of what I need to return home with.

Of course, the invention of sticky notes was a pivotal moment in my life. Now I can strategically place my lists at various points throughout my home. Unfortunately, they sometimes end up on the bottom of my shoe after a child borrows them from my desk.

My list-making may seem neurotic until you consider my sister, who purchases colored pens in order to color-code her lists.

I’m not sure if list-making is a genetic issue, but I do know one thing: the end of today’s list says “blog,” and I’m just a few words from crossing it off.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Montana Sandbox

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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Lessons Learned

Lessons I Learned in 2008:

  • My attitude is significantly better after the second cup of coffee.
  • It’s very cold in Wisconsin.
  • Ivomec doesn’t taste very good.
  • Never wipe your nose with the same glove that you just used to swat the behind of a cow down the chute.
  • Febreeze doesn’t eliminate skunk smell.
  • Neutra-Air doesn’t eliminate skunk smell.
  • Fresh linen candles don’t eliminate skunk smell.
  • Running a skunk through the combine eliminates the source of the skunk smell.
  • The couch has a secret compartment that traps playing cards, pens, magnets, Legos, Barbie doll legs, flashlights, and Teddy Grahams for nearly a decade before someone tips the couch up, hears a clatter, and cuts open the bottom to release the treasure.
  • Kids don’t require a fancy vacation; a sprinkler and a $5 wading pool will suffice.
  • A fifth grader’s trombone holds a lot of spit.
  • Children progress from the age of 11 days to the age of 11 years in a split second.
  • Taking a shower when the cows are watering is not a good idea.
  • If a child falls from a tree in the forest, he makes a sound like a breaking arm.
  • They make casts that glow in the dark.
  • When you begin to feel like your home doesn’t measure up to the homes of others, just visit the chicken house which used to be someone’s house. It will humble you.
  • If a farmer tells you to just leave his lunch at the gate, listen. Don’t try to predict which way he’s farming in order to hand deliver the lunchbox unless you’re willing to walk two miles and waste 90 minutes of your day.
  • Landscaping is not my gift.
  • When helping a spouse administer medical treatment to a steer, it’s best to be the person delivering the medical treatment and not the person hanging on to the back leg of the steer who has intestinal distress.
  • Teaching kids to avoid eating yellow snow is best done at a very early age.
  • If a five-year-old has a stomachache, it means he has an affection.
  • If an electronic rain gauge in Montana receives eight inches of rain within a few weeks’ time, it will go into shock and cease functioning.
  • If a child says that he feels like throwing up, listen to him. Better yet, get a bucket.
  • Fifth graders are too cool to make Christmas cookies with their moms.
  • If the Christmas tree falls down once, it will likely go down again in the very near future.
  • If the UPS man accidentally lets the puppy in the house when you’re gone, make sure the Polly Pocket dolls are not accessible.
  • Every new year brings endless possibilities.

Happy New Year!

 
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