Friday, July 24, 2009

There's Something about Lucky

I don’t really like animals.
They smell, they poop everywhere, they eat a lot, they drink a lot ... and the list could go on and on.
So why, you may ask, do I live on a farm?
Simply put, I don’t know.
But what I do know is that I’ve given my heart away to only one other animal on earth — my late cat, Friskie. Since him, no other animal has been able to lure me into any kind of relationship. Until now.
See, I am totally head-over-heels in animal love (not inappropriately, of course) with our bottle calf, Lucky Lady Sally.
Lucky, who is now a year old, is a giant, over-grown dog in a calf’s body. She has no clue who she is and what her intended purpose is on our farm. I mean she was literally on a chain in our backyard until recently. Lucky would be a perfect case study for animal identity crisis!
I really didn’t know I was attached to her until Matt had her loaded up to go sell. Literally when I heard the back of the trailer shut up something inside me sounded alarms. I ran outside like the maniac that I am and screamed, “Noooooo!!”
Matt, who thought something was seriously wrong, was a bit relieved to hear that all he had to do to fix my hysteria was free Lucky.
And so marks the beginning of our journey together.
A couple weeks ago, we decided to wean our calves. Well, Matt went ahead and plopped Lucky in with all the rest, just to simplify things.
And while he was at work, my job was to keep an eye on the hot calves, their water and make sure their shade and fans were all in working order.
I diligently checked every so often. Each time I ventured out on that particular Wednesday, I noticed Lucky had her head stuck out of the pen and was eating. Didn’t look atypical. Animals are always doing stuff like that, right?
But when I went out again around noon I noticed her head was still sticking out of the fence, but she wasn’t eating anymore! Panic hit and I threw open the gate and entered the cow pen (in flip-flops, of course) and ran to be by Lucky’s side.
The kids were watching me from the back porch as I ran, again like the maniac I am, back and forth from the garage to the house and back.
My dad showed up and we both took up the battle to free Lucky. I was now beside myself — tears were flowing.
We needed help. Someone with experience in this.
Timmie was called in to once again rescue this first-time “farmer.”
As you can imagine, it took him a whole 32 seconds and barely any effort to free Lucky, who immediately (luckily) galloped straight to the water bin.
Phew! Mom told me that surely the rest of my day could not be any more eventful...
...Until we were pulling into the driveway that night around 7 p.m. (already past the kids’ bedtimes) and we were followed in by a neighbor.
“Your calves are all up and down H Highway.”
Matt jumped out and got on the phone to call in reinforcements — Timmie, Mary Ann and Patrick — and yelled a few, almost inaudible, commands at me.
I parked the Suburban to block off part of the yard.
As I was running across the yard I heard Rylan screaming after me: “It’s an emergency, emergency!”
After being screamed at to “do that,” “not like that, like this,” “go there,” “close this,” “get that”... they were finally caught.
Matt and I sat on the couch that night completely overwhelmed. Understandably though, it was our mortgage running along the highway!
I had an epiphany that night. I realized that my soul purpose on this earth is to entertain God. It has to be. I’m almost certain my life is displayed like “The Truman Show” on some cable network in heaven. Surely there’s no other logical reason my life could play out in sitcom-like segments.
Like I’ve said before, I know my life is scripted and I know who the screenwriter is. But, what I’m not so sure about is why He was in such a funny mood when He wrote about me.

As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Monday, July 20, 2009


Surely you've already figured out by now that I rely a little too much on schedules and lists than I should. My life revolves around my little "Paula Deen" calendar that I literally compose my day to day activities in, thriving on crossing off the items I've completed. It's exhilarating to look at my day on paper and see nothing but a bunch of crossed off words — it helps me relax.

But in the last couple of months I've come to another time of restlessness in my life. I'm done having babies and my babies are now toddlers and soon-to-be kindergartners. Uh oh. Now among all the "home survival" type items on my to-do lists I feel the need to include intentional memory making items.

I don't want to miss a thing. I'm afraid with my over-scheduled, crossing-off addiction I might miss the most important, non-list qualifying things that makes life a life worth living.

Like sitting in the back yard and watching my four blessings chase and fall and laugh as they run around the apple tree.

Or catching my two youngest sitting side by side looking at books (upside down, of course) quietly in the playroom.

Listening to my little Bella Rose sing a soft song as she plays with her naked Barbies (because she can't dress them herself).

Witnessing my oldest hit her first baseballs.

Finding my son in the blackberry patch ... again.

Memories that may not seem note-worthy now but are priceless in the future.

When I was in labor giving birth to all these time, money and energy-sucking creatures my mom said to me over and over, "This too shall pass."

Now the labor pains have passed. The bottles and binkies are gone. I can imagine my life without diapers.

My breath starts to quicken and tears fill my eyes because I can hear the graduation song and I can imagine the sound of the trunk closing, cars driving my babies away to their new lives.

Now I routinely tell myself, "This too shall pass — just don't let it pass you by."

"Childhood years are storage years — fill them intentionally with happy times."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cleaning is my Heroin

Cleaning and organizing are some of my favorite pastimes — actually as my husband would say, they are my heroin.

I know I'm not normal. I know it's a foreign pastime to most, but it truly exhilarates me to go into a room and leave it with everything organized and neatly in its place. I've even been known to offer my "services" free of charge to my co-workers who might lack motivation or the nutty drive to do things like this.

So, while I'm not perfect and my house is not always clean, I want to pass on a few of my tips as a fellow earthmate/wife/mother, not as a superior.

Here's my cleaning schedule: (this is my goal, not something I achieve all the time)
LAUNDRY — I wash things on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays (Never do one load at a time when you are using your dryer as opposed to the clothes line. The residual heat aids in the second load's drying time, lessoning your energy use.) I also iron the clothes that need to be ironed before putting them into the closet. That way items are ready to wear and I avoid the last-minute ironing session before church or work. I make my own laundry soap, reuse dryer sheets and use Dawn dish soap for stain stick. Organize laundry into baskets (I use one for towels and Matt's work jeans, one for regular clothes and one for whites). Fold and put away clothes immediately after they come out of the dryer — if you wait until all the laundry's done, you're more likely to let it sit there the rest of the night.
HOUSE WORK — I do a semi-deep clean every week. My bathrooms I clean at least three times a week because of my youngsters and their "aim" and I vacuum (the main areas) every day. I dust, clean glass and vacuum (more thoroughly) every Friday or Saturday. The kitchen also gets a daily wipe-down but a more thorough clean during my weekly cleaning time. I also clean my floor with just a rag. I feel like I can get the spots and grime better when I'm six inches from it rather than hanging onto a mop!
EFFICIENCY TIPS — Some of these are pretty much common sense, but just in case: Clean from top to bottom; clean glass before dusting; topical clean daily to make more thorough cleanings less of a chore; put extra trash bags into the bottom of your trash can so they're right there to replace after you take the full one out; keep an ongoing list of items you're almost out of — keep at least one extra in the cabinet and put it on the list when you begin to use your extra; reuse plastic bags and bath towels; have your kids wear their pajamas each night until the next laundry day; get rid of everything you can on surfaces so your house is less cluttered and it's easier to clean.
KIDS — It may seem ridiculous to plan things like cleaning your kids, but with four it's easy to forget the small stuff. In the winter, the kids only bathe on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, but in the summer they have baths daily, which also adds to my tub-cleaning chore! I cut nails and clean ears on Saturday nights. Trimming hair is usually a monthly chore. Also, I'm working on training all the kids to make their own beds. We have a toy room and so we don't allow toys in the bedrooms. This helps with the clutter and the kids are getting better at putting all the toys in "their homes." (They are supposed to do this daily.) I prepare the kids' milk cups at night so when we get up they can get their drinks out of the fridge on their own.
GROCERIES — Well, with six people in my house and not an infinite amount of money, we've got to be creative when it comes to food. I keep an ongoing list of items we need. Each week I use the Summer Fresh ad to create a list of the sale items I want to buy. From that I create a menu. We rarely buy more than what we can eat in a week. I plan a meal for every day but will save that day's meal for another if there's leftovers to eat. I've tried to use some of the milk-extending recipes for making your milk last longer but after comparing the powdered milk/regular milk prices, it really is not much cheaper. We do water the kids' juice down and limit their milk/juice intake to a few cups of each a day.

After all that, I'm 100 percent sure I've forgotten something. To sum it up, my goal as a wife/mother is to keep our life operating as smoothly as it can with four unpredictable creatures! And somehow making lists, schedules and cleaning creates the illusion in my mind of a simple life when my life is anything but.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Refrigerator-deep in green beans

Tis the season to pick/snap/wash/can green beans. Hooray! Time to channel my inner Amish homemaker and stash away my summer bounty in hopes of cheap winter treats!
And that is all I feel like I'm doing lately. It seems my beans are all ready and willing to be picked and my life hasn't slowed to allow me the chance to gather the energy or time to oblige them.
Last year I canned almost 50 quarts of beans and made a couple batches of blackberry jam. This year our garden is so far outdoing all my other years (the whole three of them!) and we are knee deep in unripe tomatoes, soon-to-be ready corn, potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, mini-bell peppers and green beans...lots of green beans. A refrigerator full to be exact!
So last weekend we took to the garden. The kids were behaving well and keeping themselves occupied, so we took to it. Pulled weeds, picked beans, cucumbers, carrots and potatoes.
And then we looked up! I quickly lowered my gaze and resumed the task in front of me. I didn't want to acknowledge the four short people by the water, transporting buckets to and fro to the dig dirt. Which was now MUD!
But they were all getting along so well! So Matt and I kept going and decided to deal with the mud-covered creatures ... later.
Being so calm about all that was a HUGE step for me. I swallowed my type-A, over-attentive, OCD cleaning obsessive ways and let the kids have a great time. And in exchange, we got an hour or so of uninterrupted garden time!
As I sit here typing this now, kids are running, singing, arguing, yelling and there is the normal mayhem surrounding me. The beans are still waiting patiently on the vine and the supper is still waiting patiently for me to cook.
My four kids have taught me a lot — some of which I'm still trying to master, like taking the time to play in the mud.