Earache Bellyacher

Vance is sick. Like others with an over abundance of testosterone, he wants the world to know of his suffering. So I thought I’d share of mine as well.

It began last night approximately an hour after I fell fast asleep.

Sadie came in and woke me up, “Mom, Vance wants you.  He’s sick.”

After a few seconds of trying to become coherent and distinguishing between dreams and reality, I heard the howls of Vance calling my name.

I groggily made my way down the hallway tripping over an overturned chair, a life-sized scarecrow-like lady the kids made earlier in the evening to scare Jace, and at least 3 mate-less shoes.  The sailor in my mind began to rear his head as I stepped on an upside-down heel while feeling my way to the little one’s room. Regardless of the children each having their own bed to sleep on, the four youngest all tend to join one another in the queen size bed in the girl’s room, and last night was no different.  In the far corner of the bed, Vance was flailing and calling my name in a voice that woke all of his bed mates.

“Buddy, what’s wrong,” I whispered

“My head hurts, I want cough medicine right now,” he demanded very loudly.

I tried to calm and shush him, while reassuring the others they could go to sleep.  His story changed from his head, to his teeth hurt, to he just needed a drink.  With a sippy cup of water by his head, I was on my way to bed.  Hunkering down in a nice warm bed after walking the gauntlet created by six kids in a chilly house is just this side of heaven.  It didn’t last long.  In fact, it lasted 45 minutes.  Just enough time for me to drift off to sleep to be awakened by screeching.  I grabbed my sweatshirt and shuffled up the hall to avoid another dress-up shoe puncture, wondering to my myself why I didn’t clear the way the first time.  Vance was bellowing his unhappiness for all to hear; we moved to the couch in hopes of muffling his cries from his siblings.  Sadie who was very concerned after witnessing the commotion, followed us to the living room.  Vance was irked by her mere presence and began a verbal assault on his little sister.  She was beside herself and began to bawl while Vance continued his tirade.  To say I felt overwhelmed at this point, would be the biggest understatement of my life.  I wanted to join in.  I wanted to cry like Sadie from exhaustion, frustration, and fear that other unhappy children would soon join us and I wanted to lash back at Vance for his ungrateful attitude directed at those who were concerned for him.  I kept it together though and bribed Sadie to leave the room with the promise of a morning lollipop.  Vance’s voice lowered to a decibel that no longer made my eardrums throb after his sister was back in bed.  Sitting on the sofa just him and me in the light of our pellet stove I began to assess his symptoms, but they continued to change.  The common thread was his head, so I opted to give him pain medicine in hopes of being able to find sleep on a night that was beginning to seem like it was lasting forever.  I laid with him as he listed off complaints from the day and his current dissatisfaction with feeling ill.  After a while he wanted to go back to bed.  I obliged, because I wanted to as well.  Three more times he repeated the pattern, of letting me sleep just an hour before caterwauling me out of dreamland, alternating his grievances of “I need a drink” and “my teeth hurt.” I felt helpless not knowing how to soothe him as my eyelids drooped lower and my impatience grew higher.  He yelled for band-aids to hold since he didn’t know where to place them on his body and had screaming-induced coughing fits, but finally sleep seemed to reach Vance’s sleepy eyes.  I excitedly slipped back between a layer of blankets.

“Moooooommmm!  Moooooommmmmyyyy!”

For freakin’ real?!?! A half an hour?

I demanded that he leave the girl’s bed and accompany me to the living room again.  He begrudgingly joined me.  This time he said his ears hurt.  Finally, something I knew how to treat.  I got out 1 tsp. sesame oil and a clove of garlic, warmed it up and put it in a dropper while listening to him spew a litany of complaints about how bad he feels and how slow I was at getting him relief.  He complained about there being too much light, there not being enough light, his ears hurting, and not liking the how the medicine felt as it dripped in to soothe his aching ear.  I couldn’t win for trying. In the past this home remedy has worked wonders, but I was afraid that he would call me again from the sleep I desired more than life.  I found myself wishing I could have someone else come and care for this  crotchety old man in my little boy’s body, because he was unbearable!  The sweet baby who would sleep in my arms when he didn’t feel well couldn’t possibly be this cantankerous kid.  I was DONE and needed back-up.  Then it dawned on me, actually I believe Jesus allowed me this epiphany to save both Vance and myself.  I called the best babysitter I know. Nick Jr.!  He arrived at the touch of a button and Vance was in a trance as he watched an episode of some mind-numbing sing-songy show.  Bad mother?  Possibly.  But I didn’t care, because this mom was not nearly as bad as the one I would have been if I had woken up one more time before the 6:30 alarm went off.  And Nick Jr. did an excellent job, like I knew he would.  Vance was asleep when I got up and when he woke up 3 hours after that he didn’t have a complaint to speak of–until he wanted breakfast and his cereal was MIA.

“Why do you never buy my favorite cereal anymore,” he whined.

Such is life with my four-year-old Vance…

Nick Jr., a band-aid, and a plastic snake bring sleep

Fine Feathered Friends

My oldest daughter Brynna and the childhood version of myself have many similarities.  Brynna is hilarious delivering impromptu impersonations and one-liners, has a love-it-wear-it mentality when it comes to fashion, writes or draws in her spare time, talks incessantly, and adores animals. She’s a regular chip off the old block!  My parents were kind enough to affirm my sometimes quirky personality and foster my passions, especially when it came to animals.  They allowed me to have numerous dogs, cats, parakeets, finches, rabbits, sheep, turtles, chickens, and a goat. Now granted, I didn’t have these all at one time, but any time a parent allows a child to have a pet it requires sacrifice of funds or time on their part. I realize this now.  Treasuring what my parents lovingly did for me and thinking they were more than a bit insane, I try to follow their example. As it stands now in our house we have three dogs (one of which is a stray still looking for a home 3 months after finding him), a turtle, and a rabbit, but we have had fish, rats, lizards, and snakes too. Brynna recently approached me about extending our family and asked if she would be allowed to get chickens. She wanted to raise them for eggs and after extensive reading about training chickens she wanted to teach them to do tricks too. Although I was wearing my best poker face, as to not give away my position on the subject, I can’t describe to you the excitement that welled up inside of me.  As a young girl I had a special affinity for a chicken, an affection for a pet chanticleer. If this were a movie, right now you’d see Brynna leaning against the counter batting her eyes in an effort to sway my decision, me standing in the kitchen with my head tilted up and a distant look on my face, haphazardly drying my hands on a damp dish towel, and the fuzzy white memory bubble appearing right in line with my gaze…

I was raised in a rural area and I had no neighbors my own age to play with, to compensate for the lack of companionship, animals were my surrogate friends. We had a flock of hens and roosters when I was very young, but none of them connected with me the way a young Leghorn rooster named Cutie Pie did.  I don’t remember how I obtained the cockerel, but he was young and I filled his need for a mother hen and he mine for a best friend.  If I was home, that chicken was with me, often in my arms being carried around like  a baby doll ontomy adventures.  One of the most cherished things I would do with Cutie Pie was to play my favorite pretend game,”Army.”  This consisted of me painting my face green with my mom’s eyeshadow, dressing in the camouflage outfit I had gotten from the Easter Bunny, placing Cutie Pie on the back porch to give myself a head start, and then I would take off running at full-speed.  I would sprint into the woods behind our house and hide under bushes and brush in an attempt to hide from my “enemy.”  There I would wait, lying on my belly on the ground, holding my breath, waiting to see if he could find me.  Within minutes of taking cover he would bound onto the scene, as fast as a chicken can run, jumping sticks, looking for any sign of me.  Once he slowed he would become vocal, cocking his head from side to side, and sure enough that chicken would find me faster than any  bloodhound.  As perfect as Cutie Pie was for me, he had a serious fault.  His loyalty was only for me and he could tolerate no one else in his world.  He would attack our friends when they would come to visit, especially those carrying pocketbooks.  It was something that could be overlooked for a while, since we didn’t have many visitors come to our neck of the woods.  I would ward off his aggression by picking Cutie Pie up or walking with our guests to keep him from them.  Gradually he began to turn on my siblings and parents, they told me something had to be done.  My parents contacted one of our friends who had a farm about 5 miles away.  They agreed to take my combative male, giving him the run of the farm and a flock of hens to keep in line.  I was relieved he wouldn’t be on someone’s dinner table, but was heartbroken over my loss none-the-less.  We took my Cutie Pie and dropped him off at his new residence.  With a gigantic barn, pastures, and lots of dairy cows, surely it had to be any chicken’s dream home. I made plans to visit Cutie Pie, but within days of his arrival he hatched a plan of escape and ran away.  I wanted to believe he was running to find me. Maybe his little chicken mind thought it was just another game of Army.   I  expected that one day I would be in my yard playing, there in the distance would my beautiful white bird with his noble red comb leaping obstacles to get to me.  Alas, it never happened…

This is where the bubble disappears and I wipe a tear from my eye.  While keeping my composure, I told her that I would talk with her father, but it would mean a lot of work to get the yard chicken-ready and I didn’t know if we could get the money together for a coop.  However, in my head I’m knowing this is going to happen even if I have to build the coop my dang self and sell half my possessions on ebay.  Brian, as I expected, was a bit more reluctant than I about adding to our menagerie and the work it would mean for us parents.  Neither one of us are chicken virgins, his family raised them too.  We realized there was work involved, but now that we are re-evaluating how and what we eat, he eventually agreed...or maybe I just took his silence to mean yes.  Either way, Brynna is expecting the arrival of 15 fuzzy baby chicks this Friday.  She is so excited. I’m excited too.  I can’t wait to hold a chicken in my arms again, hear their peeps and clucks,  and even more so to see the relationships my children are going to make with their own feathered friends.

Here is a picture my sister Karen took of Cutie Pie and me in 1987 (age 11).

Also I’m on Twitter tweeting, soon to be clucking, about life, kids, food, and chickens.  lifeXthehandful

I’m Afraid We Can No Longer Meat Like This

Growing up in a small farming town just south of the Mason Dixon line, I saw and visited many farms in my youth.  I’ll even admit to you that I enjoy the smell of cow manure on a summer morning.  Birds and cicadas singing, dew on the royal blue Bachelor’s Buttons and grass, and cow manure in the air is a sweet memory etched in my mind.  I don’t expect those of you who didn’t grow up in a rural area to understand; and maybe those of you who did don’t share my olfactory senses, but it’s something I long for to this day.  You see, I always wanted to be a farmer.  I wanted the lifestyle where hard work in duck boots was a must, but there was a simplicity that filled the days.  As an adult I daydream about it.  If I ever have a far-off look in my eye, I’m walking between my farm house built in the 1800s and my stone and brick-red barn.

My fondness for farm life left me with an idyllic picture of where our food was grown and raised which has now been destroyed by my penchant for documentaries.  Our family loves documentaries; even the young ones will sit on the couch and enjoy a vicarious glimpse into someone’s life or an unknown process.  Since I began working part time in the evenings last year, Brian has been watching a ton of food docs without me.  He fills me in on the details of the films when I get home and I am always shocked by the information.  However, commenting on the injustice is where it stopped with me. His words were alarming, but not revolutionary.  I continued to eat “normally” turning a blind eye to the stories he had shared, but Brian wanted change.  I finally agreed about six months ago to no longer cook dinners at home with meat.  This was huge sacrifice on my part since I love burgers and the mere thought of chicken tacos makes me salivate.  Since I was raised believing that it wasn’t a meal unless there was meat served you can imagine  how hard the adjustment has been.  I didn’t have a reference point for the new meal planning that needed to be done.  Not being able to recognize half the ingredients listed on some of the vegetarian websites was frustrating and I was easily discouraged.  Over time I was able to find a few good recipes, but our meals no longer held the variety of our omnivore days.  When we would go to a restaurant I would order the real deal meat without a second thought, thankful for a night off from the kitchen and the protein.  I figured that limiting my meat intake was beneficial enough and I could enjoy a bacon burger every now and again.  That was until I was Vegucated.

The other night we watched a food documentary called Vegucated that showed not only the health benefits of a vegan diet, but also looked at the treatment of animals on the “farms” that raise the meat we eat.  It rocked my world! The neighborhood farms of my youth are unfortunately not the ones supplying most of our food.  The local 4-Her is not raising their steer for In n’ Out, rather huge corporations and government have stripped the definition of farming down and all that remains are dollar signs and inhumane practices.  Animals are being abused for our culinary pleasure, people!  My mind immediately thought about all the times I never got around to browning the ground turkey in my fridge and it went in the trash.  At that moment I realized a turkey raised in a grossly overcrowded barn, that endured having his beak cut off, died in vain.  I was sickened.  One video turned me from Farm proponent to PETA avenger overnight.  The thing that sealed the deal for me were the pigs in the film.  Being around animals I know how intelligent pigs are and to see the situations they were exposed to, broke my heart.  You could actually see the fear in their reactions.  Bewildered by my oblivion all these years left me with the realization that I can no longer in good conscious eat meat.

This is part of the reason I have taken up the proverbial pen again. To share our story.  To be honest I have a crazy mess of feelings going on.  I’m mourning the thought of no longer eating burgers.  It sounds dumb, I know, but it’s a real feeling going on inside my head.  I’m afraid I’ll fail too.  I mean, can lazy vegetarian moms even exist?  Is this one of my phases, like the time I stopped shaving my legs to take a stand against men’s preferences in our U.S. culture? That lasted only 2 months before I bought a new Bic and looked less French.  Will I waiver and think, “Pigs aren’t that smart. Please pass the bacon?”  I certainly hope I’ve matured past my fickleness, but I’ve done it in the past making it a possibility in the present.  This movie has made me think I shouldn’t wait for my dream farm, but I should begin to move toward the ideal I remember of neighboring farmers.  Self sufficiency, kindness, stewardship, and meeting the needs of others through abundance.  It makes sense.  It probably won’t be as I envision it, but little in this life is.  As I attempt to blog again you can witness my failures, my attempts, and hopefully my successes as I try to change how I feed my large family.