Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The "Aminals" Fireside Chat

Life as I know it would end. The planet would implode. And my time here on earth would be comparable to any level of hell in Dante's Inferno. That is, of course, without the presence of some very, very essential members of my extended family unit. These special individuals, these inanimate, cotton stuffed, faux-fur wearing saviors are the toy animals that my kids cherish with a bond that was established in their earliest days on the earth. Additionally, each of my children possess a blanket(s) that they love probably more than me. I willfully encouraged my children's dependence and attachment to their stuffed animals and blankets so they would sleep better. After all, I was a blanket toting toddler too and one must have something with which to brave the night alone.

However, now I pay the price.

The stuffed animals and the kids plush Koala brand blankets are night time comfort surrogates. As all parents know, the love and degree of affection for these creatures extends beyond bedtime.

I can be heard saying repeatedly through out the day, "Bun-Bun can NOT go out side!" or roaring, "PUT YOUR BLANKET'S AWAY!!!" You see, the kids sneak their "special things" when I am not paying attention.

There are code words for the blankets too. My children refer to them as my "B" when speaking in the singular, or my "B-B's" when whining in the plural form. For Wyatt, my needy son, has two blankets while his sister has just one.

When used in a sentence Wyatt says, "I want my B-B's," which I heard at least one million times a day when he was younger. Currently, Ella resorts to chanting like she's in a cult induced trance, "Bee-Bee, Bunny, Bee-Bee, Bunny, Bee-Bee, Bunny..." until I relent and give her the blanket and her bunny, or alternately, I go running out of the house screaming like a crazed circus freak.

Here is Ella and her "Bun-Bun." She clutches her bunny like a woman in a subway with a bag of diamonds in her purse and a machine gun under her trench coat. She means business. If any attempt to remove Bun-Bun occurs before an adequate "wake up" state is achieved, the screeching that ensues is enough to make my ears hemorrhage for a week. After Ella overcomes sleep inertia, I can negotiate the release of the hostage and put Bun-Bun back into her crib.

Wyatt Linus from Charlie Brown often drags his blanket across the floor while meandering around the house after a nap. He actually manages to pull his blanket over the filthiest place in the entire house, the front door entry mat, at least once a day. My son's name really should have been pig pen. I am certain that he does this on purpose to torment me. He is perfecting how to make the women in his life crazy in the BAD way at an early age.

The children's addiction to snuggling their animals or blankets is kept under control only through my strict enforcement of the no "B" zone during certain times of the day. After overcoming their sleep inertia and drinking their milk, I round up the critters and blankets and put them in the kids beds. If the cuddly things come out again, then "they" go into the tall, tall cabinet in the hallway. This generally results in much shrieking, hysteria, or tears by the child perpetrator, but it is a necessary regulatory action to maintain some degree of control in my household. On such occasions that her beloved Bun-Bun is taken away, Ella will stomp around yelling, "MAD, MAD, MAD," then mumble incoherently to herself about the injustice of it all. Poor baby. NOT!

Sometimes dramatic break out schemes are devised by Wyatt who will be found scaffolding the shelves in the cabinet to rescue his B's. Actually, there have been occasions that he has become stuck like a cat in a tree and can't manage to back down. As he clutches his blanket and screams for help I ignore him until the tear begin. Since I am a Mommy sadist, I like to let him dangle since all is fair in the war of the blankets.

Cousin Trevor, who lives next door, also has his favorite "Doggie" who has many stitches showing the signs of wear on his deteriorating body. He has been loved so much, his fabric skin is dangerously thin and one of these days I think Doggie will just disintegrate. Complete pandemonium breaks out when Doggie goes missing and everything short of calling the National Guard occurs until he is recovered. I bet this has happened in everyones house at one time or another.

Wyatt's best loved stuffed animals are a platypus and California condor. There is a small pig that gets into the rotation, but "Clarence" is really only used when the other two go missing. The condor was a gift from a family friend and the platypus was abducted from his cousin. I am guessing his strange penchant to an American endangered species and a rare Australian marsupial is to be expected with me as his mom. His prenatal exposure to environmental consulting and native rare plant and animal surveys influenced him toward those specific animals.

I often imagine that the "aminals," as Wyatt still says, commiserate with each other when they are off duty. They heartily enjoy a little time in front of the fire, and get a chance to chat unmolested. I can tell by looking at their shiny beady eyes that the following conversation is on a repeating loop between "Perry" the platypus and the condor.

Here is my son Wyatt in action with his condor. As Wyatt was stuffing the condor's ass in his face he told me, "Mom, condors have stinky butts." Such an astute observation and basic logic from a four year old is not often found.

"Ya think?" was my typical sarcastic response to him, which actually left him smiling.

Then I imagine that Wyatt's pig and Trevor's doggie have a few Zen like words between each other such as:

Doggie is down to a canvas like material. He's resembling a Chinese Crested more and more, although slightly smellier and uglier. And in this photo with Trevor lovin' on Doggie (below) note the "bad" end of the stuffed animal is in the kid's nose. Trevor likes to rub the tag back and forth across his mouth and lower nostrils. I can only shake my head in bewilderment. Since both cousins have a hankering for the back end of their stuffed animals and I must blame it on genetics since they are related after all...

Finally, here is my blanket that my Grandmother made me when I was a toddler. Apparently I used to eat my blanket when I was a baby and my Mom had trouble in my diaper. There are those things I don't need to know, thanks MOM, but that I am willing to share anyway...

Finally, I want to give a shout out to all the blanket babies, dolly loving kids and binkey toting toddlers since without them and their favorite things what would we do??

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Afterward and The Apron Goddesses

I am able to report that no incredible revelation or fabulously exciting story occurred that I can "blog" about for Christmas except the excessive dessert eating and gorging ones self until ready to explode. We were blessed with pumpkin pie, cheesecake, home made ice cream, and persimmon pudding so I ate about 5,000 calories destroying every ounce of exercise I have done in the entire month of December.

My son, Wyatt's, favorite gift was his sisters beads which he wanted play with immediately and make his own necklace. Ella's favorite gift was her beads which she staunchly defended with all of her 30 lb body. "No, my necklace," was heard for about an hour, which was basically until we had constructed four different beaded necklaces. At that point, Ella was generous and wanted everyone else to wear her jewelery designs. Then, like the little woman that she is, Ella repossessed all the necklaces and put them on herself. She walked around resembling a Technicolor Mr. T, minus the mohawk of course...

On second thought, one amazing phenomena did occur this Christmas. After the kids opened their first present we did not get to the next round of presents until a full hour later. We were so occupied with playing with the first gifts that we did not notice the time. It was a beautiful moment in our morning.

Sharpie my horse pictured to the right is modeling the new waterproof blanket that he received for Christmas. I found Sharpie standing in the pasture two weeks ago violently shaking and shivering since his old blanket was no longer repelling water. BIG, GIGANTIC, oops on my part since he was out in the rain with no choice other than be cold and soaking wet for about six hours. When I removed the blanket it weighed about 15 lbs and was saturated by freezing cold water so Santa brought him a new state of the art of horse blanket. I felt no little guilt about the indecent. I don't think he has forgiven me yet. Obviously, he just wants to bite my hand off for reparation of his pain and suffering.

FINALLY, I opened my long anticipated gift from my Secret Santa. This gift was an APRON inspired from Thanksgiving chaos. There is a PICTURE of me wearing this apron on my new blog site called The Apron Goddesses. If you want to see what I look like without mud boots and a farmer's jacket hop over and take a look.

The first GIVE AWAY for a new designer apron will be posted on the 29th of December, so come for a visit and sign up. The rules and details for the drawing are at The Apron Goddesses so please go and check it out! There will be apron giveaways as often as I get sponsors!! I have a handful of gracious sponsors lined up and hope to have more to come.

Monday, December 22, 2008

How Much is Lasagna REALY Worth?

I ask you gentle reader, "How much would you pay for a lasagna?" because I have been faced with this daunting brain teaser over this holiday season. I will take you back a few weeks ago to where this all started.

We, the entire King compound composed of two whole families, attend a rather large holiday party every winter at our friends barn where the attendance is usually over 100 people. Our hosts hold a buffet style event where all those who come bring a dish: a simple casserole, a salad, dessert, etc. You get the picture. So when the topic of "the party" was brought up by my husband I was in for a shock. HE unbelievably wanted to be in charge of bringing food for our family. Like most married women would be, I was completely amazed. Tell me more my dear and loving spouse. Then...

"What is wrong with this picture?" I asked myself immediately. There must be a catch. My husband doesn't cook and rarely cleans. If he pulls clothes out of his drawers and doesn't wear them he puts them in the hamper because folding them back up and placing them in the drawer is just to much effort... Several pairs of socks will accumulate in the special "sock place" before they make it to the laundry or until I get so disgusted I pick them up, but not with out a spiteful reminder that he is a total slob. And my resourceful husband's culinary specialty consists of toasted English muffins with peanut butter and honey. Enough background.

So I asked, "What do you propose, dearest Michael?" for I always call him formally, by his long name, when I am dubious to his motives.

"I want to buy a lasagna from a restaurant me and my Dad went to," Mike tells me somewhat gleefully.

"Sounds kind of expensive. Why don't I just by some frozen lasagna from Costco," I rationally counter back.

"Oh no, I want to bring something special. OK?" Mike says.

"How much is that going to cost?" was my next question. Money being tight, I had been agonizing over buying a new mattress for Ella since she is sleeping in a "pit of despair" in her crib. The visible body indentation in her bed has been ever increasing since she is the fourth baby to use this mattress. The issue here was that I wanted to buy a nice organic replacement that costs, well... I hate to admit it, three times as much as a standard one. The price tag was $359.00 to be exact. Such is the cost for a chemical free mattress. At least the shipping is free. So tightening our purse strings elsewhere is always on my mind.

At my profound silence in the conversation, Mike says, "Really, I want to bring this lasagna." This was said as if it was a fleeping national treasure, and something rarely beheld by the average citizen.

At this point I relent. "Fine," I sigh. He's making things easier for me right. I don't have to buy anything and I don't have to cook. Sounds too good be true.

But despite my verbal acceptance I bought lasagna at Costco anyway and put it in the freezer. Maybe Mike would change his mind and I needed to be prepared. I am the pragmatist in the family. So we fast forward to a few days before "the party." Mike volunteers information as easily as a duck sheds water and he tells me over the phone that he ordered the lasagna with a touch of excitement in his voice.

"Wife of many years," he begins with, "I ordered the food for 'the party'."

"Hey, I bought some frozen lasagna at Costco just in case. Are you sure you don't want to bring it instead?" This I offer up since I thought maybe he was just kidding.

"Really?" Mike asks me in his usual inquisitive manner. "How much did you spend on it?"

"I think $12.95," I replied simply.

"Oh..." Then there was silence on the line for a moment or two. Then Mike hesitated for a few more seconds, and I could tell immediately that he did not want to divulge just how much he spent. It was his turn to speak yet he said nothing. I gave in.

"How much did you spend?" I asked reluctantly. How bad could it really be? After all this is only lasagna we were talking about. It's just a bunch of noodles, meat, tomato sauce and cheese, right?

"Ummmm... $185.00. But it feeds 25 people." Like the number of servings could even mitigate the cost.

I have for the most part cured myself of swearing since I don't want my kids to walk around like little potty mouthed sailors. However, profanity escapes me on certain occasions just like this.

"WHAT THE F***! You spent $185.00 on F***ing lasagna? What are you f***ing thinking??? I can not f***ing believe it." I guess I could have over reacted just a little here, but I was justifiably stunned.

"Well, I wanted to get something special for 'the party' and this is really good lasagna." Mike counters back with an unaffected demeanor. I am thinking in my mind this better be gold f***ing plated lasagna with someone there to feed it to me at this point.

Then he continues in his teasing way, "I don't want to bring ordinary Costco lasagna. That stuff is garbage anyway. Just throw it away. We can't bring that sh**." My husband is known to tell tall tales and stretch the truth on many occasions for dramatic effect. In fact, one of his favorite sports is to see how far he can take some fiction of his and sell it to me or my sister-in-law Suzi. So my crap detector was starting to go off.

"Did you really buy $185.00 lasagna?" I ask again.


"Seriously?" I question him for the final time.

"Dead serious." And at this point I knew he really was not kidding.

"You know," I told him, "I have been fretting and stressing and putting off buying a mattress for Ella since I have been worried about spending too much money," I was informing him some what snappily. "I guess we can't afford it after all. Or maybe she can sleep on the f***ing lasagna." You see, I was in shock still. Who would not be. The pre-cooked noodles and red sauce definitely cost more than I had imagined possible.

So on the day of "the party" Mike went and picked up his $185.00 lasagna $200.00 lasagna. This revised number was the total cost including tax as I found out when I looked at the bank statement. He proudly brought his bounty into the party like a big game hunter carrying a trophy. I got the lovely task of cutting the half table size tray into pieces, 28 pieces to be exact, so if you are not doing the math it worked out to $7.14 per serving. And at the end of the night when Mike saw the platter totally empty he felt justified in his expenditure.

He still tells me two weeks later emphatically, "That lasagna was the BOMB! You know it was better than that Costco crap. It was the only dish at the entire party that was cleaned down to the bottom of the tray. The people were licking their plates. They scraped the tray clean..." I let him go on in revelation about his lasagna glory while I just nod.

Truth be told "the party" lasagna is not going to put us in the poor house and we still can buy Ella's mattress, but I still can not tell the difference between Costco's $12.95 lasagna and Emperor Norton's $200.00 lasagna. To my discriminating husband the other lasagna had some magical taste undiscernable to the common pedestrian pallette.

The spirit of Christmas being what it is I have to smile and know Mike was proud to bring his lasagna to a party; and he is already thinking about next year. Thus, I must be content that this strange and irrational expenditure made my husband happy. I guess in the end it is these strange eccentricities that makes him so endearing.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Shortest Day of The Year

Merry Christmas!!! Happy Holidays from Our Simple Life. I can't believe I just hit the 1,000 mark on my site meter. One very small step for woman kind, but a big step for me. However, my real thoughts today are about the shortest day of the year which occurs on the 21st of December this year.

The winter solstice is an important benchmark in my yearly calendar. It represents the true end of the year for me since each day following gets just a little bit longer in my part of the world. Because biology is the driving force in my life, the swing in daylight's pendulum from dark to light is a joyful, hopeful and significant event. Historically and in other cultures the winter solstice brought with it festivals and pagan celebrations which have been abandoned by the modern world. I must be from ancient stock since I can't help but feel the change with a certain privative eagerness.

The darking window that winter draws down upon the northern hemisphere, cloaks us from the sun's rays, and after the solstice, the blinds get pulled back just a little wider; and each successive day brings with it a few more moments of daylight. So the biological rhythm reverses itself, it can not be stopped; and I crawl slowly from the trenches of the long winter nights into the new year with the knowledge that spring is just around the corner. I almost feel like a Dorthy in Oz with a golden road opening up in front of me since longer days mean more outside time and necessitate planning for the year ahead.

Even though the cold weather remains dominant, the increasing daylight triggers miniature signals throughout my little universe. I have my own little party to observe the changes. Just the slight incremental increase in day length means that the plants will start to grow differently. The little buds nestled in the axils of our orchard trees shine with burgundy red pigments which allow them to process winter sun light. The buds are ticking inside, they are miniature time bombs waiting to explode with new life. They think of new growth, long reaching branches, and the production of hundreds of flowers. All across our property, the two inch tall grass seedlings are sprouted this time of year; and they are poised and ready to bolt upward to the sky. The annual grasses must hurry up and propagate in just one season, but they always find a way to finish their life cycle.

The animals have been affected by the shorter days too. The chickens have been slowly decreasing their egg production for the past three months and we have gone from about 10 or 11 eggs a day to a meager 3 or 4. We finally broke down and put a light in their coop to stimulate their bodies and trick their biological clocks into making more eggs. Now that we have put them under the lamp and the sun will be out longer we should start seeing a few more presents from the hens in another month, I hope...

My horses internal sensors will tell their bodies in a another six weeks to shed their winter coats and eject their long dulling hairs for short, shiny, and sleek replacements. I start to think about the show season for the following year and actually look at the schedule to see if I can fit in a few competitions. My goal for 2009 is to earn my bronze medal in dressage through the United States Dressage Federation (USDF). In short, a rider must achieve qualifying scores up through 3rd level and I have scores from Training Level, 1st, 2nd and 3rd levels and only need one more score to earn my "medal." This will really represent about eight years of riding for me since after having my kids, my show schedule was dramatically altered...but to complete this goal is important none the less.

Reflecting on the last year I realize that I have seen a little girl go from barely saying 10 words to speaking in sentences. The new year will bring her birthday and I will be saying "Ella is 2 now." Then a boisterous boy has gone from recognizing the alphabet to reading dozens of words. It won't be long until he will be reading EVERYTHING. The quickness in which Wyatt has picked up reading makes me think that sometimes you are really not ready for those things that you wish. And another year has passed struggling through the tough economy, who's direction could go either way in the year to come.

As the gate to longer days opens and the sun moves to a higher place in the sky each and every day, my goals are to stay positive, pay it forward, be kind to those people around me, and take care of myself. The longest day of the year will be in about six months and I will be reevaluating at that time too. It's biological, I can't stop it...

Monday, December 15, 2008

And A Tree Was Found

I swore to Santa Claus and his 581 elves that I would not do a pictorial essay of our capturing a tree, but somehow it happened anyway. I am sure I will have an empty stocking this year or one filled with coal, but I probably deserve it anyway. Maybe for punishment the reindeer will stamp on me with their little cloven hooves. But anyway...

Since there are several tree farms literally within FIVE minutes of our house we gleefully packed up the kids in the truck and drove down our main road to get our tree!

Here I am putting on my happy face for the hunt. OK, so I am faking it a little.

Next, husband Mike, armed with a hand saw, a camera, and his blackberry was in charge of the gadgets. As soon as we entered the truck, he found an immediate need to take his self portrait. With arms extended awkwardly he captured this beautiful moment in time.

He's AWESOME with the camera.

Poor baby Ella in the back seat is thinking, "Dada, what are you doing with the camera all funny like that?? You're supposed to be taking pictures of me. Maybe I need to hit you with this here stick."

This is sooo much better here, a huge improvement honey. I think we can count every one of your beard hairs now.

As we arrived at the location where we thought we could execute a tree by lethal sawing there was a strange and unexpected sign on the entry gate. What could this possibly be???

Total bummer. This did not bode well for the hunt. But after a quick reevaluation of their tree stock as pictured below...

Maybe they needed to be closed for a good reason. We would have brought home the Xmas shrub or a turbo tree... It would have been a tough decision to pick the ugliest tree from the mangy assortment presented on their lot, but we were assured to have the worst looking tree in the neighborhood regardless of our choice.

We drove down the road to the next promising spot only to greeted by another welcoming sign... At this point I am thinking we are totally doomed this year. We're going to have go to Home Dump, oops, I mean Home Depot. But...

As we were taking these lovely documentary photographs the lady teaching a riding lesson in the arena started yelling at us. "Why are you taking pictures???" in a not so friendly voice. Uh-oh! We're in trouble now.

We yell back at her our situation with the previous tree farm being closed and that we were good photodocumentarians and the like. THEN she says, "We'll sell you a tree. Come in." Easy as that! What luck. And I though we were in for a real ass chewing with some nasty language. The Christmas spirit was following us.

So we parked on the side of the road and started our trek into their lot of pretty trees. They had lots of nice trees to choose from so I was wondering why they were closed so early.

Up and down the hill we went looking for just the right one.

Then, after hunting through the thicket for about 10 minutes we found the most ideal and perfect tree to
assassinate and bring home as a trophy. We settled on this one which the kids helped pick out. (Translation: I picked it out)

After the quick hop home, we gave the camera to our son Wyatt so that he could hone his photography skills at an early age. It seems he is about as good as taking pictures as the old man... First we get a nice shot of Mike's ass.

Then because Wyatt can't help himself he got a picture of Ella peeing...potty humor rules at my house.

But finally, we brought the little beauty in side to decorate.

Wyatt helped me with hanging ornaments. It was his novel idea to spear a smoked almond with a ornament hanger and place it delicately on the beaded garland. "A can a week, that's all we ask." Blue Diamond Almonds is loving us right now.

Then the almond, finding life as an ornament a total waste, fell into Wyatt's mouth by itself.

And finally the finished product. A decked out tree squeezed in between the table and the couch. Note the zone of "no ornamentation" up to three feet, a Christmas essential with toddlers who want to suck on strange shiny objects...

And my favorite new ornament "The gingerbread pony."

One more Christmas ritual is complete and the count down is really underway now. I can almost hear Santa rounding up the reindeer for their party on the 25th!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Spirit Award

I was rather side swiped and bamboozled with this bloggy award that was bestowed upon me by a prestigious fellow Blogger.

The miniature text at the bottom says: The recipient of this award has displayed the true Christmas spirit. This award came to me from Janah at So Not Mom-a-Licious. Thank you for giving me my first Blog award. I know she must have given me this award since I was whining during the SITS Christmas card festival that everybody had an award but ME. My complaining was so NOT in-the-spirit-of-Christmas, but I hope the Christmas spirit award was not totally based on pity though. Part of accepting the award is the following.

Rules: You must love Christmas and so must the person you give it to. List 5 things you love about Christmas. Link back to the person who gave it to you and then pass it along to as many as you like!

My 5 Things I Love About Christmas, in no particular order are:
  1. The twinkling of itsy-bitsy dainty white lights on the Christmas tree with the house lights off.
  2. The refreshing and alive smell of a newly cut Christmas tree.
  3. The 100 lb. box of See's chocolate that we get from someone out there...I think it is only two lbs. but it's the double layer one and there's lots to go around.
  4. Looking forward to the eager face of my almost 2 year old and 4 year old as they go tearing into their gifts.
  5. FINALLY: The good thing that happens during the holidays that I was not expecting.

I would like to give this award to:

Red Pine Mountain where dreamy snowy horses run around and dig in the white drifts. What could be closer to Christmas for me than snow and horses! But she gets the Christmas Spirit award especially due to her Christmas Heros stories which are lovely reminders of what the holidays are really supposed to represent.


Grand Pooba since she has stayed faithful to a festive holiday theme on her posts and shown us that spelling is not a requirement to have the Christmas Spirit. The level of detailed effort to construct the "Christman Count Down" is unprecidented in my little world. And knowing she works for a company that gives kids what they want most, toy trucks colored yellow and black, i.e. Caterpillar yellow, gets her bonus points.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I Guess I Am Going Blind

Do you suffer from "squint-eye-tis"? You know, the disease where you blink a few times then narrow your eyes to see the teeny tiny text on the computer screen? So, is it just me or is the Internet shrinking to the normal human eye? When the words starts looking like black ants in neat little rows on my computer screen, I begin squinting every so granny-like to read the damn words. No offense meant toward grandparents, I hope to be one some day in the far, far future... BUT I think there is a conspiracy to use size 6 or 8 font or smaller everywhere on the fleeping Internet.

Well regardless, I have found and amazing and wonderful cure. If you are like me please read on... If you are occularly superior, please go somewhere else. And all of you Internet Einsteins out there, just take your big brain elsewhere. For the challenged like myself, I will let you in on this coveted secret so that you too do not have premature crows feet at the corner of your eyes. What is this magic you say? Not glasses, no, no, way too passe. Nope, it's not using the awkward tool bar with the magnifier, anyway that takes way too much time for an impatient bit** like myself! It is not Lasic eye surgery, that's much too expensive. This cure costs not a dime! Please send me no money or other forms of gratuity. Yes believe it, this technology is FREE.

Are you ready?: Two magic keys already at your fingertips will open the door to magnifying the pages of the Internet.
  • First press the handy ctrl key on the lower left or lower right hand side of the keyboard. Holding that in conjunction with the (+) key makes every thing bigger on the screen. I dare ya. Try it now. You can do this several times to achieve the desired size text. Hurray!!!
  • To shrink this back down again use the (-) key.
I love this. I use it every day. Sorry if I am a little late to the party, but I still had to celebrate this discovery. I wish they had a key like this for husbands, maybe on their fore head or somewhere else easily accessible, and especially the (-) key...hint, hint dearest over active spouse. (And, yes the hubbie reads this on his blackberry.) But anyhoo, now I can read everything in a font sized appropriately for a kindergärtner or a billboard, take your pick. Yes, I will be wearing glasses soon for reading. But they will be sexy glasses for sure.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Within the Winter's Darkness

Walking out to feed my horses in the winter always occurs in evening's darkness. The blackened sky is refreshing like a cold glass of strongly brewed ice tea and the brisk air makes me feel frisky. Since the mercury drops to the low 40's in the evenings, I sometimes pick up a little jog and wave my hands around to keep my wimpy hands warm. But my other babies need me and I have to take care of them too.

On moonless nights, I like the feeling of walking to the horses in almost total darkness. I have about 500 feet to cover between my house and the barn. During my brief walk, I get a few fleeting moments of stillness, no kids and no husband. In this blink of time, I can just breath in the simple night time air.

The neighbors houses, about 1,000 feet away, are sometimes lit up like a shopping mall at Christmas, albeit minus the blinking colored lights. They are pansies, afraid of the dark. I wish they could just turn off their floodlights for a few minutes and enjoy the night instead of blasting it with their light pollution. When their back porch beacons are not ruining my night, it is very dark, the kind of dark where you almost can't see in front of you. That is when I practice seeing with my peripheral vision. The sensors in your eyes that register color are different from the sensors that receive black and white. And if you look really closely using just the sides of your eyes you can see all kinds of things in the black and white spectrum. So, I never feel blindfolded when the night is at it's darkest of dark. My eyes like the challenge, and I know I always have my own "night vision" to fall back on.

When I get to the back of our property, the horses get put in their stalls and blanketed much to their objection. Gemma the youngster, a mammoth 4 year old Dutch warmblood, walks out to her paddock and avoids me for as long as she can. She will make several turns and swing her gigantic haunches at me; but after I corner her and grab her by the muzzle, she submits to the torture of being warm. Obviously, she is not fond of wearing her blanket. Since this is the first year she has worn it regularly, she must accept the fact its going on no matter what. Sharpie, my 12 year old Thoroughbred gelding, knows what is coming and stands still, even puts his head in the neck hole of the blanket, but then snakes his face at me with a snarling mouth. As if he would even think of really biting. Believe me, he knows better than to put his teeth on a human body part. I'm a bitch on wheels and all my horse experimented when they were younger and figured out that "resistance is futile." Sharpie's all show, and I know he would rather be naked too, but has to demonstrate he still has objections. The old timer, Alfie, a 23 year old Swedish warmblood gelding, walks out of his stall into his paddock and stands. No fussing about the blanket, just pragmatic acceptance of the inevitable.

As I move around the barn I will often catch fleeting glimpses of my cats who follow me on the nighttime rounds. These emissaries of the night scurry through the aisle way, scamper up the hay stacks or creep into my tack room: sniffing, listening, hunting. "Get em boys," I encourage the cats as they prowl around for rodents. I don't think winter gives them much luck but they still must make their presence known. Two of three "Boys" I can see with my night vision, but little lithe Lucky is pure black with a few white hairs on his chest. If he comes with me I never see him frolicking. He is truly invisible in the night, it's almost like he is one with the air...

After the neigh-neighs, are snugly tucked in their blankets, I walk out from the protection of the barn. Then I can look at the sky spread infinitely above me and observe the stars sparkling from the heavens. At this time of night, low on the horizon I see the constellation Orion rising over the oak covered hill which juts dome-like into the sky, east of my house. Before I knew it's name, I alway thought Orion looked like a hand with the middle finger extended, flipping off some celestial God. I think I was in my early teens when I dubbed it "the finger." I promised my son Wyatt that we would get a star chart so we can correctly identify the night sky. I think I can make him an admirer of the night and stars too.

The last few nights I have been lucky enough to see several shooting stars streak across our sky. Meteors arriving from galaxies I will never see... One of the spectacular ones left a long trail and terminated in a burst of blues and greens against the blackness of the universe. I put a wish on it, but then thought: Why do I need to wish on a star? I think I must already have those things that I actually need.

And here are my two riding horses:

and Sharpie

Friday, December 5, 2008

Christmas Books for Kids

With Christmas galloping at us like a stampeding herd of Mustangs, I was thinking about the kinds of gifts that I value the most. For me, books are a present that parents and children can enjoy together many times over, and they don't carry with them extra packaging or break in a few weeks. Giving a gift of a book to a friend's child, nieces or nephews, grandchildren or contributing to your own family bookcase is a great way to be generous during the holiday.

I was looking at our book collection and pulled out the stories that I think provide wonderful animal interpreters, gorgeous pictures and fabulous writing. These are the stories I never tire of reading to my kids; and they, not so surprisingly, like to hear them perennially. The following books feature wild animals and the environment, each highlighting our natural world and our relationship to it in some special way.

Some of these books have already been recognized for their achievements and some are not as well known, but maybe these suggestions will help with your holiday shopping this year. Most of these books are appropriate for ages 3 to 7. Or if you have younger children who will sit still long enough, they will like them too. I even think some older kids maybe up to 10 would enjoy reading them alone as well.

These are my favorites in no particular order.

Stranger in the Woods, by Sams II and Stoick, tells the tale of a mysterious snowman who appears in the forest. All the animals of the neighborhood come to visit the stranger who has special treats to eat. I like to make up voices for each of the animals, a deep voice for the stag deer, a high voice for the chickadee, and a unsure voice for the fawn. The children who maintain the snowman appear in the end revealing the answer to the mystery.

This book is also published in Canada which promotes the economy of North America.

Johny Appleseed, a poem by Lindbergh and illustrated by Jakobsen, is a version of John Chapman's life told with rhyming verse and through unusually stylized drawings. When I read this story I play a game with my kids after reciting the stanza. I ask them to find something new on each page, kind of like Where's Waldo. The exacting details in the drawings always gives us something new to do an "I spy" with. This story gives an American history lesson without being to overwhelming for youngsters.

Zella, Zack and Zodiac by renound author Bill Peet tells a "tail" of an odd partnership between bird and fowl with a great "kicker" in the end. I could not help the puns here. This is a beautiful example of pay it forward where kids can learn though the eyes of animals. The dialogue between the zebra and the baby ostrich is fabulous and told in Peet's characteristic rhyming stanza's. Since I have horses and admire birds, I can't help but love this book!

The copy of this story that I have is also printed in America, so buying it helps our country's economy. In fact many of Peet's books are manufactured in the USA! So check inside to see the country of origin.

Way out in the Desert, by Marsh and Ward, illustrated by Spengler, is a counting book featuring hidden numbers within spectacularly colored drawings of desert animals and their habitat. The verse is in rhyme and can be sung to "Over in the Meadow," and the musical accompaniment is provided in the back of the story. I kind of chant this one to the kids and at the end of each page they look for the numbers hidden in the picture. Featuring plant and animal species which are native to the southwestern desert habitat, this book shows kids new animals they may not have seen before.

And Egg is Quiet, written by Aston and illustrated by Long, provides textbook-like natural history information in a story format which kids can understand. With brilliant drawings that accurately depict wildlife, kids are pulled into the "data." Dozens of eggs are drawn showing the multitude of colors, sizes and shapes that can occur in the avian, reptile, insect and even the shark world. How eggs camouflage, grow, and finally produce their surprise is shown though the delicate drawings and text. The front page displays eggs with the name of each species which laid it, while the back page shows all the adult forms corresponding with the eggs. I flip back and forth between these two pages so the kids can see before and after... Sometimes I think I like this book slightly more than my children.

Story Time for Little Porcupine written by Slate and illustrated by Rogers, is a collection of "Why" stories as told by Little Porcupine and Papa Porcupine. How the rays of the sun were made, how the sunset came to be, and why there are stars in the night sky are described though the dialog between father and son. The drawings are quaint and charming and the "Why" stories craftily conceived. This story is also one of my personal favorites because of its creativity and it's encouragement to think outside the box.

Little Tom Turkey written by Bloxam and illustrated by Sollers, is another rhyming tale explaining the growth of a wild turkey from egg to maturity showing feeding, flying, escaping predators, wintering, and finally adulthood. The repeating attempt of little tom to strut is cute to observe. We have read this book about every other day for the past month since it was Thanksgiving. The illustrations in this story are stand outs since Solliers uses a combination of smooth art and detailed turkey drawings.

The Two Little Gardeners written by Brown and Hurd, illustrated by Elliot is a Special Mention book. While this book does not focus on animals in the wild it provides a beautiful step by step tour to growing garden vegetables. The words are simple but elegant in choice and I have read it so many times I know much of the verse by heart. The story describes the gardening activities of a boy and a girl as they transform a dirt plot into a vegetable heaven. The artwork is awesome and detailed. Each step of the gardening process is shown. We read this one a lot in the spring time before we plant our garden.

Since it is a classic Golden Book it is not so expensive, but the value in the story makes it a superior addition to a library and the version I have is printed in the USA.

I think these books give my kids appreciation for animals and nature. Maybe though learning to love these things the next generation of children will strive even harder to save them. Maybe you can give another kid a chance to love them at Christmas time too!!!

It's not just about chickens, ground squirrels, nutty kids and meditating hippies at our house; we read a lot! Have you a favorite animal and environment story to share? Add your story in the comments and we can make this list a little longer. I am always looking for new books that I have not found yet. Thanks!!!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Reality Check

Yesterday was fun and thank you all who looked at my e-card and made a comment. I was almost blinded by the number of sites I visited and impressed with the pure number of lady bloggers out there.

Now it is back to reality and this comic seems rather appropriate for some strange reason. Even fantasy land has problems. I think I could say all these things about my husband and it would fit in at some time or another. The expression on the dog in the bottom left hand corner is priceless.

Now I can get back to my somewhat normal schedule of about two blogs a week...sigh.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

For Me It's a Wee Too Early for X-Mas but What the Hay SITS Ladies!!

Never being one to back out of a Christmas Card challenge:

Ella's Christmas Revenge

Here's to babies butts busting out presents for the family.
May your tree remain standing and the ornaments not be used as missiles.
May your Christmas meal be free from a food fight and taste good too.
May you be primed and ready for the season of giving hiding the presents from the kids.

But if you could not tell, I really do wish everyone a Merry Holiday Season!

Also I want to appreciate the efforts of the following Blogs:

Nanny Goat in Panties-Like she needs to be told she does good...
Pooba-Another Amazon woman like myself.
Yaya Stuff- I really wish her dream comes true! AND
Finding Yourself Despite Yourself-Since her pictures and accompanying text are always, always fun to look at.

and of course The Secret is in The Sauce.

P.S. If I win the Target Gift Card I can buy extra things for Christmas this year. May the Gods of random drawings look kindly upon me.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Monday, Monday.

So I was folding my husband's laundry just before 8 am this morning and I heard a rather loud metallic bashing sound from the kitchen. I peeked around the corner from my room to look down the hall way, from where I can see the kitchen. There were Wyatt and cousin Adam, sitting on the floor near the utensil drawer, each holding a spatula in their hot little hands. Wyatt had a black Rubbermaid spatula and Adam possessed a metal variety. Each boy was happily smacking the flat part of the spatula on the floor with a look of glee in his eye.

"Hey, keep it down," I bellowed. There was a momentary pause in the festivities while they both looked up at me. "What are you guys doing?" I questioned.

"We're makin' noise, Mom" Wyatt offers up, stating the obvious with a smile.

"Yes, I am aware of that," I respond with no little annoyance. At that point Wyatt spread his hand down flat on the floor and started whacking on it with the spatula. "Don't hurt your hand, Wyatt. And especially you Adam, since you have the metal one." They continued on unphased by my warning. "Well, good luck with that." My last sage words of advice were obviously falling on deaf ears. I then returned to my room to finish the chores.

Lovely Ella was sitting at the foot of my bed. She had in her hands a bamboo sushi roller laid out lengthwise between her legs. Additionally, she was handling a small rubber super ball about one and a half inches in diameter. It's swirling red and blue lines were popping out against the main white background of the ball in the dim light in my room. Ella was mumbling to herself in concentration as she attempted to wrap the ball in the sushi roller.

"Whatever makes you happy little lady," was the only sensible thing I could say to her. I watched her trying to put her project together for a few minutes then knelt down and helped her. Her happy smile at holding the now tube-shaped sushi roller with the ball inside was what every mom wants to see. Then Ella spent some time looking through the tube at the ball, sort of like a telescope. Ah, our simple life.

If you can't tell already, the contents of my utensil draw are free game to the kids. Since my house just squeaks in at a whopping 800 square feet I let the kids have liberties that I would not likely condone had we a larger abode. But accepting the situation as it is, I am amenable to most activities so long as they don't destroy furniture, cabinets, carpets, or children's body parts.

After moving from the exciting and rewarding task of folding hubbies clothes, I took a moment to log onto the Internet and sign in on the roll call at The Secret in The Sauce, which to the initiated is recognized by the initials SITS. As I was waiting for the page to load, I was gazing at the leopard print wall paper with pink piping and something startling dawned on me.

The apron I picked for my Secret Santa (sister-in-law Suzi) to gift me is the spot on duplicate in pattern and trim as the SITS site!!!.

What does this mean?? Is is purely coincidence or is this some subliminal signal that I have been abducted by SITS? When I was on the apron site Thanksgiving day, the pattern just "lept" out at me and I immediately knew I wanted it. It was not too froofy or silly girly for my personality. Mostly it looked fun and to be honest, slightly out of character for me. Maybe it represents a little challenge to get out side my normal parameters or it's a reflection of the new freedom I feel with this Blog journey. Regardless, me thinks this selection was not just a strange twist of fate and it reveals the normal changing that everyone should do.

Have I been influenced by the SITS site or is this just strange luck? And then, how are you going to get out of character for next year?

Late Breaking News. The SITS ladies are giving away a 200 dollar gift card tomorrow!

The Day the Swallows Came Home

The tree swallows are here already.  They arrived January 30 much to my dismay.  Swooping and calling and chirping their merry song over my ...