It’s October, so of course, it’s time for a scary story. I loved the Scary Stories books when I was younger, so it’s fitting that I’m living my own horror story right now trying to entertain a toddler and a six year old, but so far Joan Crawford’s Mommy Dearest has only surfaced once or twice. My real life scary story started on the last day of school last spring. My older son got out of school at 12:36 P.M. and my younger son got out of preschool at 11 A.M. I had also attended the last school assembly that morning, then ran a few errands, and still had 45 minutes left before I needed to pick up the youngest. We live about 10 minutes out of town, and if I can help it at all, I stay in town in these situations because I feel like it’s a waste of my gas and time to head home for a few minutes. I feel like it’s meant to be, that I should take a walk or relax with a book at one of our local parks. I should have known I was asking for trouble by taking a few minutes to unwind, but usually it’s my own thoughts at these quiet moments that are the nightmare.
Not this time!
For such a small town, we do have some great parks and lakes to chill out for a few. I took a book out to a local trail around an old city lake - Rickett’s Lake for those local readers. It’s a very peaceful spot to relax and take a quick walk. It’s just out of town, but surrounded by farmland, with a beautiful lake and lots of wildlife hanging around. Occasionally you’ll find some sketchy people or teenagers sneaking out of the trees, but hey, I’m sure I look sketchy too in my old beat up car and lazy mom attire.
I sat down in the shelter house for a bit, reading the book I always keep in the car just in case I’m trapped somewhere. This time I was reading Flood by Melissa Scholes Young, set in Hannibal, Missouri, a place I absolutely love, so I was enjoying the book, but at this particular moment of the book, the author started alluding to something terrible that one of the characters had done. I had no idea what it could have been, but it sounded like murder. I probably shouldn’t say this in case I ruin it for you, but it wasn’t murder. Anyway, I blame this book for my overdramatic state for the rest of that day.
After reading ten pages, all my mommy brain will allow me to focus through, I decided to take a brisk walk around the lake to get some exercise before I left to pick up my son. I hadn’t gone far when I reached a little wooden bridge where I always scan the water because my older son and I have frequently seen turtles swimming under it. As I walked across, quickly scanning the water, out of the corner of my eye I saw something white in the water. I stopped, turned, and looked closer. A sense of sweaty panic rushed through me.
I saw an arm, an arm floating toward the surface of the water.
I only stopped for a moment. I gasped and inhaled quickly and kept on trucking. Yes, I just kept on moving. I was not sticking around to examine a dead boy. No way, no how. My breathing was quickening and my heart was racing.
“What do I do? What do I do?” I kept repeating to myself.
I hadn’t even gotten 100 yards away before I thought, “No way, it was a mannequin, had to be a mannequin.”
I circled back but then thought better of it. An ill feeling swept over me and I thought, “If it’s an arm, I don’t want a good picture of it. What if I didn’t look close enough the first time and will see a face deeper under the surface?”
Nope! I swiftly turned around and tried to look up the city hall number. I was still skeptical and didn’t want to call the police. Of course, my internet service wasn’t working on my smartphone out of town, but possibly I was just too nervous to wait patiently for it. I decided to call a friend who also comes out to the park a lot, someone I’ve worked with on a grant for the park.
As she answered the phone, I nervously laughed through the conversation and slightly sounded like Kristen Wiig doing her one-upper sketch, “Ummmm, Bekki, this is weird, and I’m sure it’s nothing, just something crazy, but I was walking around the park and ummm, well, I’m sure it’s nothing, some prank, maybe I am hallucinating, but I think, I’m not sure now, but I think, possibly, maybe it’s just a doll or a mannequin, but …. I’m pretty sure I just saw an arm in the lake.”
Then I started the whole long winded maybe-it-is-maybe-it-isn’t process all over again, but this time I asked for city hall’s number.
She quickly looked it up for me and also said, “As soon as I can, I’m coming out.”
I then called the city hall with the same rambling message that I used with Bekki. Robin, the city administrator, was probably thinking, this girl has finally lost her mind or probably thinking that I was on drugs because I couldn’t control my nervous giggle. It was a terribly embarrassing giggle and if this turned out to be a real arm, I just knew they were going to arrest me for murder after being a weirdo, laughing as I reported the crime. I couldn’t stop myself. I obviously couldn’t be a crime scene investigator. That career is forever blocked to me. Mariska Hargitay would be ashamed of me, I just knew it.
Robin said she’d radio the public works director to come check it out. She must get a lot of weird calls because she wasn’t appalled or amused, the odd mixture of feelings that I had become. She was just efficient, like this kind of thing happens every day.
After the two phone calls, I had made my way all the way around the lake trail and was on the dam that is parallel to the gravel road. I started walking slowly knowing my only option was to wait where I was or walk right back around to the bridge, and I definitely didn’t want to do that. I didn’t have to wait long before I saw a police car making its way down the gravel, so either the public works director thought, “Nah, dead bodies aren’t my area,” or one of the local policemen heard it on the radio and decided he’d have a peek. Right behind him was Bekki, also coming to my rescue.
As they got out my laughter was uncontrollable. I was really trying to hold it in, but I was so nervous and my stomach was in knots. Greg, from our local PD, asked where it was and I reluctantly stayed behind.
“The bridge, about 20 feet out,” I said walking about 20 feet behind him. I still didn’t want to know.
He looked and looked and said, “I don’t see anything.”
I started walking out to the bridge and then, finally seeing it between the endless lily pads, he said, “Oh, OH.”
At that moment, my stomach dropped. It was literally in my toes. That second “OH” was a much hated affirmation, but thankfully, it was quickly followed by a short laugh.
“Yeah, I think it’s a mannequin or something. That would be a shock, but now that I’m taking a good look, it’s much too clean and straight up, and I don’t think it would look like that if it were an arm.”
I felt much better, but not 100% until Bekki also saw it and agreed. Then I was laughing loudly at my insanity. After a few guesses, one of the two realized that it was probably one of the stolen items from around town. Toward spring, the local college kids seem to enjoy taking things from yards around town, possibly a scavenger hunt gone drunk, but it’s fairly common for large items like vases, bird baths, and lawn jockeys with an outstretched arm to go missing. It had probably ended up in someone’s dorm room and needed to be done away with before RA’s started checking all the rooms as they moved out. Somehow, their prank landed two-fold: once for stealing it in the first place and once for throwing it out to land arm-upright perfectly to scare the s&*# out of me.
When they mentioned lawn jockey, it finally fit. It really did look like it. I didn’t stay to watch them drag it out because Greg needed to call in reinforcements because it was just far enough out to make it more difficult, so I left to get my youngest from preschool.
I left feeling much better but a bit jittery for the rest of the day. I could at least take away from the whole situation a good talking point for the rest of the day.
As everyone complained about their day, I would interrupt, “Well, you think you had a bad day. I found an arm in Rickett’s Lake today.”
If I had to just about have a heart attack, so was everyone else I came into contact with that day. All in all, it was a pretty entertaining day.
I’m a member of a local organization called Association of Women for Education (AWE). It was the first organization that I jumped into after deciding to stay at home because I knew I’d need adult conversation at least once a month. It was definitely just what I needed because not only do I get to speak with adults, but they are mostly women who can give me advice because they are beyond the baby stage, and we have speakers at our meetings so I learn something new every time. We also fundraise for scholarships and books for every elementary child in our school district so it’s good for the soul as well. It really is a great group for a nerd like me! I recently joined another group (yes, I am a joiner, and a volunteer, and a non-sleeper) that just happens to meet on the same evening. Sometimes I can squeak in both meetings in one evening, but I have a leadership role in the new organization so many times I’m unable to swing it. I’m especially bummed about tonight because AWE was going to do something right up my alley...a little storytelling.
AWE always takes a summer break. Many of the members are retired teachers, so it only makes sense that we don’t want to be seen in public for three months. In September they have a potluck, and instead of a speaker, they do something where everyone can be involved. This time it is called “Off the Wall,” and everyone is supposed to bring something from their walls (or around their home) and talk about it.
Now, as you know, my husband and I don’t own a lot of decor that is special because it is a 5-years-and-running construction zone. I don’t purchase decor, and if it’s given to me I’ve packed it up in Rubbermaid containers so it won’t get broken, and then, of course, it’s completely forgotten. This summer I spent some time cleaning out the downstairs closet and found lots of wedding gifts (we were married nine years ago) and things that I could definitely use: more plates and bowls because I’ve broken most of ours, a fancy wine bottle opener, you know, just because, and a gigantic baking dish which has allowed me to finally make a meal that provides leftovers.
I may not have a lot of decor for my house, certainly not anything that I would take to this meeting if I could go, but as we discussed this idea at the last meeting, I knew exactly what my “Off the Wall” item would be, and since I won’t be there this evening to share this special story, I must share it here.
When I had my oldest son, being the over-planner that I was, I planned out his arrival time to be toward the end of school so I could take my maternity leave right into summer. “HAHA!” said every mom out there. My body decided that I needed a reality check, and I developed Cholestatis, a pesky disease that causes bile to build up in my body, and as a result, my liver then says, nope, I’m out, and my body responds with relentless itching. It can be unsafe for the baby, so I believe doctors usually make the highly research medical decision to induce when it looks like the mother is about to lose her mind from late nights of scratching like a mad person. My planned 40 week pregnancy turned in to a 37 ½ week induction.
After a wonderfully fast delivery (inductions are painful, but man, they are superfast) and what felt like an awfully short maternity leave, I had to leave my baby in the hands of my husband while I went back to work for the short two weeks that my early maternity leave didn’t cover at the end of a school year. I was angry because I wasted a lot of time during my maternity leave still grading school work, I was angry that I didn’t have more time with my son, and I was super hormonal. I’m guessing I wasn’t a pleasant person to deal with during these two weeks.
On a normal day during this two week:
My husband: “Would you like some coffee?”
Me: “I hate you!”
My husband: “Can I make your lunch?”
Me: “It better have something delicious in it, that’s the least you owe me, jerkface.”
My husband: “I’m pretty busy tonight. Would you like me to just pick up Dairy Queen so you have more time to snuggle your boy,” as he slowly pushes a coffee mug in my direction.
Me: “Yes please…” and then I yell, “Only if I can get a chili cheese dog and a bacon cheeseburger.”
One afternoon, after racing home to see my baby boy, and immediately snuggling him and checking to make sure he was still whole from head to toe (I trust my husband, I do, but I’m a mom), I noticed that my little monkey had red around his fingernails. On closer inspection it was around a lot of his nails. Horrified, I asked my husband, “What is wrong with Aiden’s fingernails?!”
With a guilty look of panic across his face, he stammered, “Well...I-I tried to clip his nails, and I think I got too close.”
“WHAT?!” I bellowed in what must have sounded like a dinosaur from Jurassic Park.
I went into a rant. Blood, my baby, pain, my baby, I ….will….destroy….you….
My poor husband had an earful. Thankfully he was understanding enough to know, “This too shall pass...she’s just crazy because of genetics and hormones.”
I yelled and cried. I asked why in the world he would even clip the baby’s nails. Everyone knows that’s a delicate job for a mother. Side note: I do know that’s a crock. I’m a modern mother that expects my husband to do just as much of the parenting responsibilities as I do, especially since I was working at the time, but I was also a new mama bear so it takes a little bit of adjustment and reason to return to get into a habit of letting my husband take the lead on parenting.
My husband received the silent treatment for a few days and when I did start talking to him again, he probably missed the silent treatment. I was going to hold a grudge for a lifetime for those tiny, sweet, bloody fingernails. He would not get away with this travesty.
Thank goodness, I eventually forgot and got on with life. I was still terrible to live with, but as soon as the nails looked normal again, I was free to be too sleep deprived to remember. Just in time for Mother’s Day! It was going to be a special one, my first one. I’m an emotional person anyway so I woke up that morning with tears in my eyes. Literally, a mixture of pure emotion and the continuous effect of pregnancy stuffy nose and old age allergies, and I was just a mess. My husband made breakfast and excitedly went to find the gift that he’d put in hiding.
As soon as I saw it, I cried because it was the most beautiful gift for a new mommy. My husband has a saw mill and had cut a log from our farm to use the circle as a base for a hand and footprint of my son. Handmade and sentimental...enough to throw my hormonal self into a tizzy.
Then, as I asked, and immediately knowing the answer as I asked it, “When did you do this?” followed by a guilty groan.
The red ink gave it away. He had used red ink, and it suspiciously looks like blood.
“I couldn’t get it off around his fingernails and I didn’t want to scrub too hard. I hoped you wouldn’t notice, but you noticed it first thing,” my husband said, “I just told you the first thing that came to my head so I wouldn’t give away your gift.”
Oh the shame that swept over me. All the little snide comments I made after yelling at him, and the days after when I went out of my way to take over parenting responsibilities in a passive-aggressive attempt to say, “I don’t trust you.” I had not been nice AT ALL. I had not been understanding AT ALL. Honestly, I had been a Grade A Bitch.
There’s no other way to describe it.
I apologized, and apologized, and apologized. My husband actually seemed to enjoy the whole situation. He’d been biding his time, knowing that he was in the right, and that he’d get to hoard it over me if he could just wait until the ultimate reveal at Mother’s Day. I still feel terrible about those two weeks when I was just a monster. I’ve taken so many lessons from this:
That’s my “Off the Wall” show-and-tell item. The most precious item in the house and proof that marriage can survive having a baby and slightly hating each other for a short amount of time. The rough time passes to be replaced by another baby/rough time to then be replaced by one salary/rough time to be replaced by construction/rough time. It’s when we chose to stop having children and stop renovating our homes that we can truly enjoy married life. Let the countdown begin!
I haven’t had a real date night in a long time. Once upon a time, B.C. (Before Children), we were badasses at date night. I had done years of footwork getting my husband to view a date and time as a fixture, not a moving target. It took arguments, tantrums, and finally just leaving him running down the driveway trying to slip on his shoes as I drove away to go by myself (don’t worry, he usually caught me at the gate). We liked to try new, adventurous foods and often had Thai, Indian, Mediterranean, or sushi. He would try anything, often saying that he would just get a basic teriyaki dish at the sushi place because he couldn’t trust raw fish, then eating most of my sushi. We saw movies, musicals, and plays. I even surprised him with a super date, a flight to Minneapolis and tickets to A Prairie Home Companion. Nerdy stuff, I know, but that’s how we roll. Now, we plan dates around our needs at Home Depot, Aldi, or Orscheln.
I think most of our friends are like this as well. I see random posts on Facebook or share a joke with my friends about their own “date nights” that have turned into a three hour trip to see how many errands can be crossed off the list at once with a quick trip to Chipotle rounding out the date portion of the night. I have gone on a date that began in an old milk van, and yes, the jokes I heard all the way to dinner were inappropriate. It ended with Olive Garden, and a van full of sheetrock, a tub, and a toilet.
I think I remember the beginning of the slow progression of the breakdown of our dates. We were going out to eat and came home with piglets. It all starts out so harmless.
The date is a casualty of adulting, but I also know that I have friends who have normal date nights, friends who have children, businesses, ambition, and even do other things that we don’t, like exercise, and they still have time for a normal date. It seems that they have learned something that I am just now learning. Date night is sacred!
I’d like to do one of the following soon to swiftly reinstate the normal date back into our lives:
This is my goal for the summer - to go on a real date. It’s so hard to accomplish even though it sounds simple. When you live out in the country, any drive to town is gas guzzling, and so we automatically assume it should be jam-packed with things to accomplish. The purpose of a date should also be to concentrate on each other though, and it’s hard to do that if you’re instead concentrating on work, home, or getting some Drano because your oldest feels the need to use a whole roll of toilet paper after a number two.
In case my husband reads this and also decides it’s time to go on a real date, I should also come up with a list of discussion questions to focus on our date since our discussions almost always deal with our house, farm, and work. Hmmmm….How was your day? What have you been reading lately? Which kid is your favorite?
I’ll start with that.
Happy Mother’s Day to all you top notch, hard working moms out there! Today is your day, not your children’s day, not your husband’s day, not even your mom’s day (just kidding, get your mom something or you are going to be SOL the next time you need a babysitter). Since today is your day, it’s a good day to reflect on the fact that you need some me time. I am the last person you should listen to for a pitch on taking time to yourself and not feeling guilty about it, but I’m going to do it anyway. Writing is therapy so hopefully I can use this to remind myself that it’s okay to do something for myself, and if you’re reading this you must think I have something important to say (unless you’re my mom, reading this because you think I’m just fantastic and insightful). Aren’t moms just great?!
So this desperate farm wife is going to spend this blog telling you why you should really, really take some time to yourself, and I mean time to yourself without that nagging little mean mom in your head telling you that you should be doing something else. Raise your hand if you have a nagging little mean mom in your head. Do it, even if you’re out in public. Nothing makes you look more superior than a raised hand when no one else knows the answer, so admit it to yourself right now and move on. That nagging little mean mom in your head is a b*$%&, and she needs to be reminded that it’s your day.
That mean mom in your brain has her purpose sometimes. When I have a day of laundry or lots of work to do and my kids spend the day with whatever new toy I throw at them or hunkered down in front of the tv watching too many cartoons, that little voice is a good reminder for me to say, “Drop what you’re doing and get down on the floor to stomp around like a dinosaur, right this moment!” But sometimes she’s just a jerk that makes me feel guilty for no reason at all.
I’m going to be honest here, so hold your beer and listen up. I have a lot of me time. Seriously, a lot. I’m a stay-at-home mom but I bet half of their waking hours are devoted to me time. I’m not sure about that number - nagging mean mom may be exaggerating in my brain - but they are with my husband doing farm chores, with one of their grandma’s, or at school/preschool quite a bit. I'm a stay-at-home mom with an endless supply of people to help support my dreams and hobbies, but I'm the kind of person that would almost lose my mind before asking them for help. I say I’m a stay-at-home mom because that’s my first title that I answer to, but I do have a business to run. It’s not a Fortune 500 and could most certainly be done during nap time or early in the morning before little feet hit the ground demanding pancakes and the farm toy bin. I am also a professional volunteer, as I like to call it. I have a bad, yet satisfying habit of saying yes to everything. So technically it’s not me time, but I’m given lots of free time to accomplish these tasks and at any time I could give myself a break, but as soon as I take a minute to do something all for me, that nag gets me every time. My plea for myself and for every mom out there reading this is to actually take a moment of me time this Mother’s Day.
Here are a few me activities that I will try to squeeze in. Maybe this will give you some ideas of what to do during your me time.
You’re idea of me time might be a pedicure or massage, but I go with the simple and free aspect of alone time. I’m one of those extroverts that needs spaces of introvert time to recharge. Me time is important to recharge so you’re still top notch for everyone else in your life that you live to take care of. I know, I explained already that I have lots of alone time, but that’s not really alone time. I have to remind myself that it’s work time. I shouldn’t feel mom guilt every time I’m not near my kids, but that’s just the way it is. I will spend time today telling that nagging little mean mom in my brain that she needs to cool it. It’s Mother’s Day and maybe she should take a break too.
I really dislike winter. I’ve never been a fan of it. Cold weather just hurts my whole body, and the lack of sun makes me cranky. It’s even worse now that I have kids because I have two excessive balls of energy in my house, dying to go outside, yet not understanding that Mommy wants to hibernate until temperatures reach at least 60 degrees (which luckily means I might enjoy being outside today if it’s not raining). We do go outside a lot during the winter. They play in the snow or chase each other in the freezing cold, all while I quickly grab some wood for the fire and retire inside to watch them from the window.
Two weeks ago it was icy and cold, and our yard is hilly, surrounded by an electric fence. To eliminate the chance of one of my boys sliding down the hill, right smack dab into one of those fences, I decided it was a good time to stay indoors for the day.
It was a short argument at breakfast as they looked outside and thought everything was covered in snow. I had to explain that it was ice and not as fun as snow. Once that catastrophe was sorted out, I then had to break the news that we weren’t going bowling as planned because the roads were slick. It’s a good idea to get all the fits out of the way at once, and if it turns into one massive fit, then be optimistic. Throwing a tantrum takes a lot of energy, so it may result in an early bedtime. It didn’t work for me this time, but sometimes, once in a blue moon, it does work in my favor.
I saved the day by getting out the plastic bowling set, which my older son promptly ignored all day even though he was the one mad about not going to the bowling alley. I will assume that his tantrum was more about the friends he was going to see at the bowling alley rather than the actual bowling, or possibly the pretty girl from his class that he would have seen, but I don’t want to admit that yet. He said he was going to marry me when he grew up, so I’m sticking with that.
The youngest bowled for a while but got fed up with the domino effect he’d create by accidentally bumping one pin just as he'd gotten them all set up and would swiftly throw them all over the living room in anger. We painted and colored for a lot of the day. They had sword fights until they both ended up in tears saying the other hit him or poked him in the eye.
Luckily, most of the day was saved by the costume box. Anytime I see a costume at a garage sale, I get it for the costume box, and the $1 cow costume I purchased last year was definitely worth the investment. Just like the little farm boys they are, they took turns pretending they were a cow or the cattleman working his cows. The cow would just run around on all fours being bad, but the cattleman had his work cut out for him.
He had to lock the cow up in different locations around the house. Apparently, the whole house was a corral but each room had a different purpose. The cow had to be milked so one was the milking parlor. The cow also had to be fed, given shots and wormer, and loaded on a trailer (which was just the recliner).
Thanks to recently witnessing their aunt (who’s a veterinarian) dehorn a cow that had some very large horns, they’ve been consumed by the danger and gore of that situation, so the little cattleman had to dehorn his angry cow as well.
For a short while, they also played matador and bull because they recently watched Ferdinand.
I had to cut this time short though. They were playing so nice, but as I was cleaning up from lunch, I heard one say that it was time to “cut off the cow’s nuts.”
Ugh! They see and hear too much and copy whatever we do. I tried to tell them it’s more polite to say castrate and that it’s probably not a good idea to pretend in that much detail anyway, but they were laughing hysterically over the word “nuts” and no one was hearing me over their giggles.
It was nap time anyway. As I tried to remove the cow costume and cowboy gear, gather books and wrangle my monsters for story time, the oldest was chasing the youngest around the house while they screamed “Nuts!” “Nuts!” “Nuts!”
I guess it’s better than watching television all day. Don’t think I’m above that! Nope! I am not above that. The Lion King is, as we speak, in the DVD player waiting for the moment when I’ve been all the mom that I can be. Thankfully, on this icy, indoor day, the costume box and farm knowledge did all the work for me. I can save television for another day.
It’s been a while. I have to admit, I have had an idea for a blog just about every other day, yet didn’t sit down to write one until now, but it seems kind of weird to jump into a random story without at least explaining (complaining) about my lapse in posting. Just like everyone in this crazy world, I’ve got a million irons in the fire all while trying to make it look like I’m just a stay-at-home mom. That short hour before my boys go to sleep and during nap time have become insufficient to complete my ever growing to-do list, so the blog was relegated to the “Maybe-I’ll-Get-To-That” separate list, you know, the one you go back to if you finish your daily list.
List-making to me is a science, a well thought out process, but the only thing certain about all my planning is that most of my planning will not get done.
I feel like I should take this time to list out our current projects and activities, since I love my lists, for only one reason: to remind myself that it’s okay, that I have been too busy to write a blog.
It’s also a way for me to say, alright, you’ve seen the train wreck, now keep on moving and get something done.
So here are some irons that have been in the fire:
So no excuses now! Time to get to work. If I get my act together, you’ll learn more about those experiences with farm animals in our house, the history of our farm, and how my son learned some colorful language (from his father, it’s always from his father).
This was it. Time flew by and my baby boy went to kindergarten this year. Just like every other teary-eyed mom that sent their first child to school, I spent the day, and the weeks leading up to the first school day, in a sad little stupor. My husband thought it was funny to bring it up, to mention that he’d be at school all day, every day, and that he was a big boy now. I’d start to cry every time. While I was having mini-meltdowns throughout the summer, my son was soooo excited! He loves new things and had been asking about school all summer.
“When can I go to all day school?”
“Is tomorrow when I start school?”
“Will the teacher get on to me if I pick my nose in school?”
Ugh! With parent-teacher conferences just around the corner, here is where my problem lies. Did I teach him everything he needs to know? Obviously, he didn’t know that picking his nose in public was gross, so I missed some essential lessons in there somewhere. I want him to be successful, happy, and kind. I’ve read my fair share of parenting books, and I’ve come to realize after finishing many of those books, that what I have already done, at the tender age of five years old, will be what most influences him for the rest of his life. THE REST OF HIS LIFE! Essentially, all these books are telling me it’s too late. So, I must be satisfied with what he’s already learned. Here are some of the things he has either learned on his own or has learned from us:
1.) How to milk a cow using a single-milking machine or by hand - Will he do either one if asked? Nope, but he knows how. Does he drink the milk? A seriously gross amount. One day milking the cow will be a chore off my husband’s hands, but until then, he will continue to ask me to do it, and until my dying day, I will say no.
2.) His ABCs, his numbers, how to write his name, and, 80% of the time, our phone number - All the other things are important, but nothing was more stressful than trying to teach him our phone number. He thought it sounded better with a three beat interval, skipping one number so it came out to his beat, and I would get worked up as I pictured him getting kidnapped or lost, trying to tell a police officer the number, but not quite getting it. For awhile we just settled on him knowing the nearest town to our farm. I told him, “Tell them you're from Armstrong. Once they take you there, everyone will know who you belong too. You’re obviously a Stroupe.” Dominant genes!
3.) How to suck up to the teacher - I was a teacher, so he’s heard a million times that he needs to be nice to the teacher. He’s even heard that he should tell her, “Good morning!,” “Have a good weekend!,” and “My mommy will give you a present to make up for my orneriness.”
4.) The difference between a sheep and a goat - Most kids can’t tell the difference, but he can. This is from pawning him off on Daddy to move the sheep or Grandma to do goat chores. He thinks he’s an expert at moving them, feeding them, and fencing them in, but if he has dominant Stroupe genes, the last one is still questionable.
5.) How to steal a heart - Sorry, but he’s a heartbreaker. He is the cutest little booger you’ll ever meet, and he’s got a winning smile and bright, blue eyes that shoot arrows through your heart. Just ask my friends - they just think he’s the sweetest, well, until he brings them #6.
6.) How to find bugs anywhere - My boy may not grow up to be a farmer, and I’m more than cool with that. I hope he lives in a city with a grocery store in walking distance, a job that pays comfortably well, with great insurance, and enough room in his house so I can come visit for extended periods of time. I’m not sure finding bugs will bring that about, but he loves to tag along during farm chores, mostly to find new places to explore. He digs in the dirt (never look at his fingernails) and finds all kinds of creepy crawlers. He is not afraid of a bug and improvises places to stash them in a second. Never drink out of a cup he’s handed you, never wear his hats, and don’t even let him into your vicinity without a thorough shake down.
7.) How to wash his hands, say thank you and your welcome and excuse me, and to raise his hand - I’m saying he knows how to do all of these things, but I didn’t say he will choose to actually do any of them.
8.) How to drive a 4-wheeler (and a car with some assistance) - Currently the 4-wheeler is parked with the keys hidden because that’s what happens when little farm boys get in trouble, but he has learned to drive it, and even shift it without being taught. That was on purpose. I would much rather it blow up then to have him being reckless, but he can smell danger from a mile away, and figured it out on his own.
9.) How to open gates - I taught him this a while ago for no other reason than to save myself from having to get out of the car.
10.) Most importantly, how to treat people with kindness - This doesn’t include his brother; they are just mean to each other one second and hugging it out the next, but everyone else is his best friend. We taught him to say nice things to people to “fill their bucket” and to punch a bully in the face (Daddy’s words, not mine). Don’t worry, I’ve seen him around a bully, and despite the inadequate education of the latter, he tries to kill them with kindness.
Tomorrow we’ll learn if he’s progressing in pronunciation, sight words, classroom rules, and all that jazz. I’m going to try to remember that at this point, none of that matters. It’s kindergarten. I only went to half day kindergarten. We even napped during those few hours, and I still came out a genius. Yes, a genius, I say!
He may not be able to write his numbers in the correct direction or stay in line in the hallway, but as long as he remembers #10, I’m going to call it a win because nothing is more important to me. And if for some reason I’ve been fooled, and he turns out to be the bully, and has completely forgotten our lesson on “filling buckets,” I will take away all his toys, make him milk the cow by hand, and even shovel some poop for the fun of it, because when it comes to being mean to someone else, in the words of Tina Fey, “For I will not have that S&#@. I will not have it.”
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, so I thought, “What better way to celebrate than alerting everyone that it’s my birthday?”
I’m actually using my birthday present from my husband, a nap and a free afternoon to work, to write this. I felt like Kelly Kapor from The Office being tucked in as everyone backed out of the room for such a magic occasion as a middle-of-the-afternoon nap. Thankfully, I wasn’t woken up by Dwight Shrute with a pair of cymbals ringing in my ears. Instead of getting right back to “mommy work,” I was also informed that I have a few hours free. Yes, I was given the ultimate gift, or at least the gift than any mom would love to have - a nap AND free time.
So while I recover from the grogginess that always comes with an unexpected siesta, I’m going to ramble about how awesome 35 really is. If my husband thought I’d use this time to clean the house, well, his mistake. BWAHAHAHAHAHA!
The day that I turned 30, five short years ago, I turned off my phone as soon as I woke up, ignored social media, and told my husband not to mention my birthday. I felt old. HAHAHAHA! That’s crazy, I know, but that’s how I felt.
Let me explain.
I had my first son a few months prior, so sleep wasn’t happening at the length that any man would be able to handle. I was on my second round of mastitis, lugging out the breast pump too many times a day since my son didn’t latch. I was a mommy machine. I had no idea how I was going to return to my classroom in the next few weeks. It seemed impossible. I also found my first gray hair and had to sell my beloved sports car, both moments I blame on my first born and always will. If he would like to repay me one day by buying me an old classic muscle car, I would not hesitate to snatch it up, but in no uncertain terms is he allowed to buy, drive, or stand near one for the rest of his life. I’ve read that Hondas get great crash test ratings, so that’s what he should drive, always under the speed limit.
At the end of that day, I finally plugged back in, heard and read all the well wishes, and had a good cry.
Now, five years later, that makes me laugh.
What a silly mess I was! Honestly though, I think we all have to hit that moment before we turn around and decide, “Ahhhhh, who give a s#*&?!” I will tell you that right now I am drinking iced tea out of a wine glass because 1.) I don’t want to wash two glasses later on and I know I’ll be drinking a glass of wine this evening and 2.) it makes me feel classy. And there lies that fantastic part of growing older. Slowly but surely, I’m leaving behind that awful adolescent fear of what other people think of me. Not 100%, but as I look around at the older people around me, I secretly hope that I make it to at least 90 because of the things I can say and get away with.
In the last five years I have quit a job that I loved when someone made it miserable. It was a completely insane time in my life but so very important. I was lucky enough to find a job where I made more money, loved my coworkers, and had an amazing boss. I scrimped and saved like any regular joe tightwad would do - for no reason - then found my reason after becoming pregnant again and deciding, “Well, you only live once, so might as well live day in and day out snuggling babies and tickling the pee out of your children while you can.” Even though I loved my new job, and would still need a job once my kids were older, I risked the anger of a great employer to jump ship after a year. I learned that great employers don’t get mad. They wish you luck and keep in contact to make sure you’ll come back when you’re ready.
My time at home became less about snuggles and tickling and more about wiping butts and dealing with other gross things that little boys think are cool, but it’s been the greatest time of my life. Not only am I a mom, but I’m an avid volunteer, which is really the most stressful but reaffirming thing someone can do with their life. A plus about volunteering as a mom, you can take your kids with you everywhere. You are a volunteer, so no one is going to complain if you drag your kids along with you. You are in high demand, so they’ll take you in a heartbeat, along with your screaming toddler and super inquisitive preschooler.
In the last five years I have also almost entirely removed myself from helping around the farm. I’m usually only asked to water sheep or calves that are near the house, house a dying calf or lamb in my kitchen for their last few hours, or answer questions like “Should I do ‘this or that’ on the farm?” which I always have no answer for. This will pass as the kids get older and won’t need constant supervision, but then again, won’t they be big enough to help my husband instead?
I have also recently started a little bitty, small business. I saw something that was needed and said, “I can do that,” and I did. Do I make lots of money? Nope. Am I having fun? Heck yeah. More importantly, am I helping people? Yes.
It’s amazing how awesome getting older can be. Yes, sometimes you have more worries, more responsibilities, but I feel like I’m slowly becoming the new Evelyn from Fried Green Tomatoes when, after taking her parking spot, two young women say snarkily, “Face it lady, we’re younger and faster!” and after she rear ends their car multiple times to their horror, she says, “Face it girls, I’m older and have more insurance!”
I know I sound braggy, but life is pretty good, and it’s my birthday, so bare with me. I’m a lucky, lucky, lucky lady, and not everyone can say that. I have two beautiful boys, a great husband, a great life, and like Evelyn, some insurance. For all my English teacher friends, if I get hit by a truck tomorrow, feel free to use this as an example of irony in your classrooms. I approve.
So everyone together now, “Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you….”
No, okay, that’s cool. :)
It’s Father’s Day, but I’m not going to make pancakes or biscuits and gravy for my husband. He’s happier eating an oatmeal cream pie and drinking a Mountain Dew to get a real sugar rush before the work day begins, and around here, every day is a work day.
He’ll get a practical present because I’m the worst gift giver, maybe a drawing from our sons if I can get them to sit down long enough to finish it, and some hugs and kisses. Other than that, Father’s Day, like other holidays, roll on the same as any other day.
Before he gets to work though, I would like to say thank you to my husband for being the greatest dad on earth. The best, possibly on the planet. Hugely amazing, the greatest.
Honestly, he is a great father, and he’s always there for his boys, loves to hang out with them, and makes them laugh hysterically at least 20 times a day. A man and his minions are inseparable.
So, thank you John, for being such a great dad, for teaching our boys how to have fun, how to work hard, how to be empathetic and kind, and most importantly, how to be a huge dork.
We love you!
A man and his minions....
When I was in elementary school, there’s nothing I remember more than the excitement of getting a Scholastic book order. I loved to read, I loved the smell of books, and I loved sprawling out on the livingroom floor with my four page book order so I could circle the books that I wanted and then finally order the one that my mom made me narrow it down to from the, well, the whole pages that I had marked. Now, those book orders are truly a book, probably 30 pages in length, and you can order online, so it’s a good task that my son can do at the table after school so I can get dinner started. I then enter in all the books that he marked on the online shopping cart, wait a day or two, and finally let him narrow it down to a few books after he’s forgotten most of them, making the decision making process a little easier.
Most of those Scholastic books come with little trinkets, toys, or stickers. My oldest will take his new books to bed with him and when I go into his room in the morning, I find a whole mess of stickers newly placed on the wall beside his bed. Our house isn’t done, so he gets free reign over his room (at least with stickers anyway). He loves the books, they’re inexpensive, and he becomes very attached to the things that come with them. He has received a tiny bulldozer, Lego Batman and Superman, a large dragon tooth on a necklace, and a stuffed My Little Pony, which he said was for me, but he hasn’t let me play with it since the order came in.
He becomes very attached to these little toys for a few days, maybe longer, and he carries them everywhere with him. That’s how we ended up spending a few days searching everywhere for a three inch Smurf.
He got this Smurf when I ordered Rain, Rain, Smurf Away, and I assume the tiny Smurf that came with it is Handy Smurf because that’s who the story is about, but it could have been about Grouchy or any number of other Smurfs because a lot of them look the same. In case you were interested, Handy builds a machine to turn rain clouds into sunshine. Also, if you were wondering, no, I don’t remember all the Smurfs. The book was very good at explaining who was who, but I also looked at a Wikipedia page, which might have had thousands of Smurf characters listed on it.
To all the boys and girls out there thinking, “Hey, she used to teach English, always told us not to use Wikipedia as a source, and she just cited it. Hypocrite!!!”
Yes, I cited Wikipedia for Smurfs, not for accurate information for your persuasive paper on the impact of the Kennedy Administration on the surge of sciences in schools. Please tell me you understand the difference. If not, I feel like the years I spent nagging about that and the importance of The Goonies were meaningless.
I’ll have to go back to teaching eventually, so I needed to make that clear so they couldn’t use it against me.
Back to the Smurf. Handy Smurf was the toy of the moment for about three hours. My son brought him home after school in excitement. He played with him, made him a spaceship out of Duplos, and fought over him with his little brother.
Then Daddy asked, “Wanna come with me to milk the cow?”
But Handy Smurf was not forgotten. This was just his thing. Handy needed to be there with his handy skills in case the 4-wheelers broke down, the milker stalled, or the gate fell off its post, all likely possibilities.
As they got on their 4-wheelers, finding no pockets in his shorts, he put poor Handy Smurf in his underwear for safe keeping. He wears gym shorts most of the time, and none of them have pockets, so after witnessing that, I think I should sanitize a lot of toys. My husband and the boys went to the corral and then checked some fence. They came home, and five minutes after coming home my son yelled, “Oh no! Where’s my Smurf?!”
I assumed that he had walked in with the Smurf and lost him in his room where he’d been playing. Nope! It was not there - anywhere. Then I asked him if he’d brought it in with him.
He got teary-eyed realizing the implication of his answer, “I don’t think I did…”
So Handy Smurf was lost on the farm. Being the sucker that I am for a teary-eyed little boy, I promised we’d look for him the next day. And that’s just what we did, all day.
We started at the house again, looking everywhere that I thought he’d stopped and then the whole house. We then checked the garage and I even checked every nook and cranny of his little 4-wheeler in case it had fallen into some mechanical part. Then we had to prepare for afternoon preschool, but right after school, we were right back at it. My husband took our younger son along on some errands, so we went for a hike to the corral. We checked the corral yard, the chutes, the stock trailer, the tanks, but no Smurf.
I questioned him about where he last saw the Smurf, and after taking a few moments to think, he said, “Well, I played with him in the corral, then I put him back in my underwear. We rode our 4-wheelers to check fence.”
I had asked this question previously, but I guess all that searching had jogged his memory enough to exclude the one place we had already searched high and low.
So off we went to search wherever they had gone to check fence, which could have been anywhere on 150 acres, but for a five-year-old that never has any idea where his shoes are, he had remarkable clarity for the exact direction they had gone. Over the hills and through the woods, he even remembered that he had stopped his 4-wheeler at a pond when Daddy told him not to and was quick enough to give his Smurf a dip in the connecting tank before jumping back on the 4-wheeler. I checked the tank and the ground around it thoroughly, but no Handy Smurf. We continued to walk through the field and into the woods, crossing multiple hot wire fences. Thank goodness there were lots of spots to climb under and step over (hence, the reason cows are never where they are suppose to be).
Our hike had led us to the end of the line, a little stream that my son said he’d been playing in while my husband looked for a stray cow. There were lots of dead leaves on the ground, so I pictured Handy Smurf buried under them, forever lost, to be found in a thousand years by paleontologists certain that it was an idol of a long lost religion because they had already found so many of them in other areas, along with multiple womanly shaped dolls, but ones that most certainly could not have possibly stood erect without severe back problems, and little turtles with human arms and legs and archaic weapons.
I gave up on the search. We headed back and kept looking as we walked, but I had definitely given up seriously looking for him in piles of leaves, tall grass, or even in my dirty home. If he wanted to be found, he needed to make it happen.
He made it happen a few days later, as I was picking up laundry, and saw a sock peeking out for under the bed. I got on my hands and knees, assuming there was another sock under there with it and like any adult, I’m in an ongoing and futile war with mismatched socks.
As I peeked under the bed, there was the Smurf, standing upright and looking right at me. Yeah, a Smurf isn’t scary, but when you aren’t expecting it and a large-eyed toy seems to be staring at you in the dark, it’s kind of creepy. It also felt like I caught him in the act, like he was Woody from Toy Story, and he was frozen in place as I entered the room unexpectedly because I am almost certain I checked under the bed when we originally searched the house.
Then I thought, “I just walked all over this farm looking for this Smurf, and he’s been here the whole time.”
I asked my son about it, “Hey, guess what I found under the bed?”
Like it had just dawned on him in that exact moment, he replied, “Oh yeah, my Smurf. He was hiding under there so Baby Godzilla wouldn’t steal him.”
Baby Godzilla is what we call my younger son when he gets in a destructive mood and just wants to throw toys and knock over construction of Lincoln Log and Legos.
He took the Smurf and gave him a hug and took him outside to play. As I watched, he promptly saw something more interesting, dropped the Smurf in the grass, and moved on.
Ugh (eye roll).
I did the smart thing though. This time I quickly picked up the Smurf and hid him away so I would be his favorite when I was able to produce the Smurf in the next moment of crisis. I last used it during the baby’s naptime. The photos below are brought to you by Nap Time Photography by Aiden. On a positive note, I did get a lot of exercise, I cleaned a little bit while I searched in the house, and I got to be Super Mom for a few minutes after I found him. Those few minutes are worth it.