Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Tiny Cow

Our neighbor came by to bring us some very appreciated fresh ground beef today.  He had taken one of his cows to slaughter, and had more than he could fit in the freezer.  Not only did we get lucky enough to have some awesome, local beef... but the girls and I jumped in the truck and went for a little field trip!  We saw the baby calves, nursing.  We drove around the pasture, checking out the cows and Longhorn steers, horses, and donkeys!  The girls rode through the tall grass, their heads hanging out the window like golden retrievers.  It was great!

That afternoon, Olive came to me, holding some invisible thing between her chubby fingers.

She asked me, "Do you see?!" 
"What is it?!" I asked, excitedly.
"It's a tiny cow!  It's black and white, and soooo cuuuuute!"

She then proceeded to wrap the tiny, invisible cow into a carefully folded wipe, patting it to sleep.  This was repeated over and over for the next hour.  Daddy even came home just in time for the cow to wake up, get unwrapped, and presented to him.  I didn't catch a good glimpse of him, but it sounds like he was "soooo cuuuute"!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ivey's Robot

Ivey loves to draw, and to write.  A couple months ago, she drew the cutest robot picture I have ever seen.  I proudly displayed the little guy on the fridge, where he has been smiling at me, nonstop.  Every time I walked by, he made me smile, too.  I decided that this little robot needed a voice, and so Ivey helped me to put her drawing to life with her wonderfully cheerful voice.  I see more of these artwork child interviews in our future!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Frog Legs and Pickle

Ivey and Olive have been in full force lately... making up songs, bouncing on everything, playing dress up, and throwing nightly parties serving delicious make-believe concoctions, like "fish tea" and "ketchup tea".  As if we didn't already know it, we are constantly reminded that girls are an entirely different being than boys.  They are both incredibly chatty lately, with "rhyming" being the coolest thing EVER.  Our house definitely couldn't be considered calm right now, not with a 2 and a 3 year old filling it with squeals and laughter and vicious screams of attack.

These two fluctuate between playing like two peas in a pod and pushing each other off of the couch.  I have been reminded a lot lately of what it was like raising 2 and 3 year old twins.  Olive isn't quite to the "if/then" delayed consequence stage.  She hears it, she knows what will happen, and it just makes her break down into heaving sobs of anger.  We'll get to the point of being a reasonable and decent human being, but not before a whole lot of constant work, energy, and sending her to her room.  Like Asa said, "I sure am glad we aren't gonna do the 2's again!"  Whew!

Tonight, at dinner, Olive broke down into sobs.  Why?  Because she wanted to listen to Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walkin" (AKA "The Boots Song"), that's why.  After realizing that this, in deed, was not something that she would forget and go back to eating rice with her hands... we got up, played her song, and let her show us her dancin' moves.

For the record, Ivey's favorite song at the moment is "Riders on the Storm".  Who can blame her on that one?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Stuck like everyone else. Sort of.

 Plans never plod along smoothly.  We know this.  We have learned to ebb and flow... to work towards a general idea, but realize there will no doubt be curve balls and obstacles.  Sometimes, you even go backwards.  These are lessons that we have already learned through out marriage.  But, that doesn't mean that I don't still feel exhausted from it all.

We came up with the idea to move back to our hometown and build.  We had taken a dilapidated house and made it beautiful.  That should count for something, right?  Surely, we would benefit from all of our hard work... and it would help us achieve our next step.  We bought the land for our new home and farm.  But, instead of selling the old house, we bit on a rent to own situation.  Just a few months ago, Jeff and I talked about how much money we need to save in order to actually start building our home.  I hit the spreadsheets, I made a plan. 

After my budget plan was enacted, our tenants that were in our first house - the first one that we fixed up, lived in, and loved.. moved out.  They were great renters, and had stayed a long time.  I hated to see them go!  After they left, my saving plan when to heck.  That house needed work, of course, so we orchestrated some needed renovations.  And, we hemorrhaged money. Technically, we still are.  I think we'll be back on track, with renters paying rent, next month. That's the "plan", anyways.

And, even though we knew the rent-to-own contract on our last house had a chance of falling through... it still hit hard for me when it didn't.  It needed to sell so that I can move forward... so that this independent person who loves freedom and space can yet again own a home. And instead, we were paying three mortgages and living in someone else's house.  Sigh.

After a very brief attempt to sell our 1862 house again, we decided that we needed to be open to renting it, as well.  With the economy what it is, people just cannot get loans right now.  We made this decision and then got very lucky.  A friend, a good friend, a good friend with an awesome family full of awesome children that my boys played and bonded with and love, will be moving in to the house!  It is so liberating to be able to know that the house will be taken care of, and loved.  With that said, all of the decision I was making and conversations I was having... were from a distance.  It was a series of phone calls, numbers on a spreadsheet, Craigslist ads, blog posts, and emails.  Until Saturday.

On Saturday, I actually went back to the house, for the first time.  While Jeff worked on the porch, I mowed the grass... and cried.  This is what it felt like to mow your own grass.  I did this.  That big, beautiful garage?  We built that.  Those steps?  We built them.  The porch... The siding... The cabinets and the antique tiles and the details.... We made those decisions and put a whole lot of my heart into them.  I am not over that house.  It might be easier to handle not living there when I am moving forward.  But, as it stands, it's just someone that I never got over... and someone that I am protective of.  Renovating that house was our life.  OUR LIFE.  My trip on Saturday was full of uncontrollable tears... I miss our house... and that's just the way it is.

I started to feel a bit disillusioned.  Why did I care so much about where to put that door, or which knobs to put on the cabinets?  Why did I waste my mental energy on picking out the light switch covers that I liked?  Why did I bother... What was the point?  If it's not for me, and it's not helping me live somewhere that is for me, then what on Earth were we doing?

We bought our first house from a couple that we named Tweedle Dum and the Paint-hater.  They had horses, that destroyed the pasture... it was red clay.  There was a crummy old stable and a workshop that had seen better days.  The entire back yard was covered in, literally, tons of junk.  I mean, it was like a small scale junk yard.

The house needed some work, which we thought was a lot at the time.  I am a little jaded now that we did the Bethlehem house and are looking at building a timber frame home with lumber that we are milling ourselves.  But, for normal people, especially a young couple, it was a major effort.  Scraping the house and windows, painting, putting in a floor, digging a french drain by hand and anger, in the rain.  Putting up fence along 2+ acres.  Rearranging the stables and making the workshop and barn very nice... It was a different place, indeed, when we left.

With all of the manual construction labor that define our 13 years together comes sacrifice.  Saving money, taking small vacations, spending weekends and often weekday nights doing manual labor (or being alone with the kids, while Jeff did)... All of this was sacrifice that was supposed to have a pay off.  Right now, with the economy the way it is, that payoff it not guaranteed. 

Beyond the self-inflicted stress of buying needy homes, we spent 7 years struggling to create a family.  8 miscarriages, countless expensive failures, an adoption nightmare that no one should ever have to live through, a horrific lawsuit that consumed our every thought from the time we woke in the morning until after we fell asleep at night.  Very hard pregnancies that either left me and the babies hospitalized for almost 5 months total... or left me back in the hospital at 2 months postpartum, in the ICU, trying to figure out what was causing my body to go septic.  A set of preemie twins on oxygen and monitors.. that would actually go off for a REASON, all the time.  A baby who could not eat and breathe at the same time, causing him to be readmitted to the NICU months after coming home (unheard of).  A baby who almost died from a black widow bite... Another who took more ambulance rides than I can count, due to spazmatic throat closure.

I know that, in the big picture, we will look back at all that we have accomplished and it will make sense.  I know we will succeed, somehow, and live in our home on our 25 acres... with animals all around.  I am not so self-pitying that I think this is truly hopeless... I know that we are incredibly blessed. But, that doesn't mean this is easy.  We are both tired... and we have so far to go.  I feel that we have spent so much energy working and sacrificing to fix houses that other people will live in... or for houses that we are in that belong to someone else.  I am overwhelmed.  Do we have it in us to keep going?  Why on Earth do we do this stuff?  Are we stuck?

The good news is that, although things might be getting to me, or to Jeff, they are not getting to the kids.  They went with us to the house on Saturday.  They helped... and played with their friends Ethan, Cael, and Tucker... who will be moving into the house!  It didn't make them sad to play in their old "beaver dam".  They weren't phased by their old porch, or any of it.  Even when I couldn't control my tears, and they asked me why and I told them, they were still okay.  They don't miss the house because to them, they have a house.  They have a class with friends.  They are happy.  And, this means that we have been successful.  Kids don't care.  Thank God.

If we had not taken that rent-to-own situation, we would not have moved here when we did.  We wouldn't have been able to jump start our hybrid homeschool class, which is going so well.  It's like we moved for the schools... without moving for the school system.  The kids wouldn't be spending at least twice a week hanging out with their grandparents.  It is a better spot, lifestyle speaking.  Now, we need to find a way to make that next step... and have the energy left to do so.  This one will be our biggest project, and yet we start out weary.  But, I know that one day, when the economy recovers, we will sell that fabulous home and give our building possibilities the boost it needs.

Last night, Jeff gave me a big hug and told me that we've come a long way.  He said this as we stood, hugging, in the same bedroom that I slept in as a kid.  Have I come a long way?  I suppose in some strange way, I have.  I have learned a lot about being flexible, about not being in control, about not wasting energy trying to change things that cannot be changed.  I've learned that life truly, truly isn't fair... and I've learned that that's okay.  I also know that, even though I may feel beaten at the moment... I have no regrets.  It was the right path, it's just not fun right now.  And, I am well aware that, despite my whining, I have lots to be thankful for.  We are blessed with happy, healthy children.  We have a marriage that continues to work.  Our boys are getting an awesome education.  We are spending time with our parents.  We do have a roof over our heads.  And, things will most likely make sense in hindsight.

But, tonight, I am feeling the toll from all of the work we have put in... and I am going to bed to dream of the day when I can spend energy picking out a light fixture... and then stick around to get to use it.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Needle in a Haystack

Yes, I desperately need to fold all of the laundry.

But, this kitty makes even the ominous pile of clothes look cute.

He pretty much has two modes...sleeping and attacking.  He also need no time to ramp up to either one.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Chester Copperpot

Meet Chester Copperpot, also known as "Copper".  Thanks to Uncle Mike, who doesn't get his cats spayed quickly enough, we have a new family member.  With our dwindling kitty population ("White Cat" turns 15 this summer), we have to train up the new generation of mice catchers.  We go through 100+ lbs of grain per week around here... without kitties, we would have a serious rodent problem!

Copper is quite the mess.  He flips from being a bundle of spastic action to a purring, exhausted baby.  The girls are in love, the boys are entranced, and I am laughing out loud.  He even enjoys a good tea party. Sounds like kitty success. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Love. To The Point.

Last year, I used up this year's mushy post quota.  So, in honor of my anti-small-talk husband, I will attempt to avoid emotionally based banter and "get to the point".  I will fail.  Unfortunately, it is not my style.  But, I will try.

A long time ago, he avoided small talk and emotionally based banter, sold his Gibson SG electric guitar, bought me a ring, and handed it to me.  He loved that guitar.  One can logically deduce that he must have loved me even more.  Enough to spend his entire life with.  After officially meeting me only 8 months earlier.

I already knew he was the one for me... and I already knew that, one day long down the road, I would find that guitar and buy it back for him.

Last Christmas, Jeff bounced home one day exclaiming that he had stumbled upon almost his exact guitar, only better.  I knew nothing about the one he had... except that it was now on my hand.  I would not be able to pick out the one, but his reaction told me that I needed to make this happen.

And so, I called upon a fabulous family member and friend, the most reliable and responsible person I know, who has the best wife that I could have ever ever hoped for him to have... and they helped me pull this guitar right off the wall of the store.  Over the next 6 months, I sold everything that wasn't tied down.  Between Ebay, Craigslist, selling my shirt designs on Cafepress, and doing crazy things like holding pysanky workshops... I paid them back, completely bank account free, by our anniversary.

And then, I got nervous.

Why?  Who knows.  But, I did.

After a great dinner at Pascals, I weaseled our way up to the bar to sit a while... and I just happened to have to head out to the car to get a little gift.

He loved it.

And, I love that he loved it.

In the last two years, Jeff has lived with my parents, patiently and calmly.  He called upon some sort of inner-zen that I had no idea he possessed.  Maybe he didn't.

We are on a weird, out of the box life plan, with no script.  Our marriage has been well steeped in lessons of letting go of control.  Since we bit off the new 10 year plan, I have seen my husband use the lessons we have been forced to learn, and apply them.  More patience.... More flexibility.... Less internal brooding over things that cannot be changed.

Stressful things happen, always.  The unexpected is thrust upon us.  The unthinkable.  The curveballs and the chaos and the crisis.  They happen.

As it turns out, the crummy economy is putting a tiny damper on our plan... and yet, I hope we can continue to live what we have realized to be true... That children ultimately do not care if you own your home or rent it, whether there is a savings plan, or about problems at work, or whether you work stocking shelves or as a astrophysicist, or whether they have to share a room or not.  Kids, wives, husbands, friends... They care about being important enough to have a connection with you.  Eye contact.  Speech.  Listening.  Real listening.  Thoughtful contemplation and response.  Human social interaction.  That is what is important, and it is what makes families, marriages, and relationships survive anything that comes at them. 

His gift was his new Gibson SG.  The first NEW guitar that he has ever owned.  He said it was "too much".  It wasn't.  Not by far.

My gift is having a husband who loves me enough that... I know he would trade this one for me, too.

Maybe one year he can give me a song.

An illogical one, with more words than necessary to get the point across.... with gratuitous repeats even though the meaning is already clearly known. 

What girl doesn't love a song?

Love you, babe.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Tom, Tommy, Tomcat

Right before we moved, Tomcat showed up at our house, from underneath the vacant house next door.  We knew right away that he was a good fit for us.

He was patient and tolerant of the kids, yet cool and independent.  He was Jeff's favorite of our many cats.  Addison loved for Tom to sleep in his bunk at night, even though I kept telling him that Tom cried to go out, waking me up, at about 4am each morning.  Ivey and Olive called him "Tommy", showering him with unwanted affections...and tea parties.  Sometimes he was "Tommy" , or "Tomcat"...but, Jeff named him "Tom".  And we loved him.

Tom, very clearly the coolest cat that we have ever owned, was hit by a car last week.

 The house just isn't the same without you jumping out at us... and running around eating all of the other cats' food!

We'll miss you, big boy!