Saturday, November 28, 2009

Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.









I love that I can have it my way.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

You're Invited to the Boy's 6th August.

I don't know if this makes me a good parent or a bad parent but I'm going to confess something here. The boys have never had a birthday party. Family, best friend, yes. More than 1 friend? The whole class? Never. You make the call, I won't feel judged.

This past weekend we just celebrated our fourth birthday party in four weeks. We unfortunately missed one of those because we were out of town, but as happenstance would have it, we were able to snag a few (two too many) goodie bags. We hit Xavier's, we crashed Nates, we finished off Heather's. We are still swimming around in the murky waters of whether these parties are drop and go, or stay and play for the parents. I dropped and went for Xavier's and Nates (who had a JUMPY castle at the school cafeteria). And was planning on dropping and wenting for Heather's, who was having her party at our Sports and Fitness Edge pool. Big slide. Big splashing. Big lifeguard. Big plans on my part to hit the grocery store and pick up Chinese for dinner. Since Paul Bunyan has spent so much time teaching them how to swim, I didn't need to stay.

Well, everyone else's parent stayed. Shit. Fine. Let's watch an hour of swimming. Perfect. But after the swimming and after getting my pant cuffs wet, shoes soaked, clothes moist trying to get the boys showered and changed, I was starting to get annoyed. Now this is unfair, because I threw Claire a pool party for her 5 th birthday (or was it, 4th??). So, I've done this to people. I put parents through this same shit. Well, let me just state for the record here people...NEVER again. Because after the showering we (the parents) stood around a table of kids in a room painted in a brightly colored underworld scene and watched as the little birthday girl opened her useless plastic American Girl doll accessories, and make your own plastic princesses, and decorate your own plastic Barbie dolls. The buggers chowed down their cake and grabbed their goodie bags and we were gone.

I watched as the parents shifted their weight, giggled fake laughs, whispered directions on how to behave in their bugger's ear. And my mind it went to the homestead.

Let me just set the scene. It's August. A perfect summer eve. The sun is still high in the sky but drifting slowly to the horizon. The yard is full, at peak, with its flowers. I don't have to decorate. I finally have my patio furniture...compfy cushions on curved couches. Parents, I made it clear that you would stay (in the invite) but that you wouldn't have to do a thing. Paul Bunyan has dug a huge hole in the yard, because well, he can. It in we've buried a bunch of stuff- old chicken bones and cool stuff like that. The little buggers will get lost in dirt, digging, making roads, finding archeological finds. Meanwhile, Paul Bunyan and me, we're serving up homemade margaritas, homemade guacamole, chips and homemade salsa, homemade seven layer dip. It's a true homemade fiest. There is no fake giggling, no watching our children or anybody else's child for that matter, no shifting of weight.

The kids splash in the pond to wash off. We've got the Dr. Bronner's. Perfect. Dinner for the kids. Easy, Speasy.

There was a request in the invite for no presents...homemade gifts only if people were so inclined. The guests were very creative and the kids presented the boys with pirate stories, poems, homemade cards, rockets, all of which could be burned or recycled when they were no longer used.

After homemade cake, every kid was handed a bag.

There was none of this:

plastic whistles that are too loud to be used inside.

Or this:

balls that don't work.

And this:

key chains for kids who don't carry keys.

Or this:

sharpeners that don't sharpen.

So if your child whines to you on the way home from our party about not receiving any of these fine goodie bag toys, just shut them right up and say, "Honey, that was the best birthday party I've ever been to. I'm sorry you're upset with the underwear you got in your goodie bag, but just's something you can actually use. It won't break and when you're done with them, I'll use them to wash the windows." And if they whine some more, I know you won't mind too much because Paul Bunyan, well, he makes a mean margarita.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Twin A and Twin B

I've always tried to make sure that the boys have had their own identities. I wanted, from early on, to make sure they were known as separate people. Separate boys. With separate personalities, despite their identical looks. Which is why, from the very beginning, I dressed them differently.

I didn't have to dress them differently in order to tell them apart because Auggie has been 2 lbs. this day.

They would sometimes wear similar clothes. But rarely, the same.

There were exceptions, however. For example, if someone gave us a gift I felt obligated to take pictures of them in their presents.

Or if Gramma was buying p.j.'s, it was just easier to buy two of the same.

Or if, let's say, Patagonia only makes a blue and pink really only have 1 choice.

I don't know who is who in these photos. I can't tell you which one is which. I don't recognize my own children. At the time, I could have told you who was crying in their crib, just by the intonations of their wail. Or I could have told you who was crawling around the corner by the way they slapped their fat hands on the ground, just as I know who is coming up the stairs in the morning by the way they lay their feet on the ground.

I've always been grateful to anyone who takes the time to figure out who is who, which one is which. I've laughed at their guesses. I've empathized with them if they get it wrong and celebrate with them if they get it right. But I'm happy they are trying to know the boys as individuals, because that's all I ever want them to be.

I struggled with the decision to keep them together this year in Kindergarten. We went back and forth about maybe it's time we should split them up. When I got a call from their preschool last year that Timmy bit Auggie and then Auggie turned around and bit Timmy, I thought, "well, okay, I guess they're ready". But when it came down to it, I know they are best buds and the idea of splitting them up during this crazy transition to kindergarten, it broke my heart. So, we kept them together.

On the second day of kindergarten the boys brought these home:

This is Auggie's picture of Chester Raccoon. They were learning "about shapes and the proper way to use our glue sticks."

Here's Timmy's example of Chester Raccoon.

Any similarities? I was trying to picture the teacher telling them where to put the nose EXACTLY, and where to put the heart EXACTLY, and where to put the smile EXACTLY. My heart broke and I was struggling with the fact that I should have split these boys up. How are they going to be individuals when they pack their backpacks full of work to bring home to show me and Paul Bunyan and it's the SAME?

Yesterday, I kept Timmy home from school because he is fighting off some kind of virus. He probably didn't need to stay home with me, but I gave him the chance to stay in his p.j.'s until noon. When I came out of his bedroom in the morning to tell Auggie and Claire that I was going to let Timmy sleep Auggie started to wail. "But I won't have a buddy." I was able to make out this jargon in the midst of the wailing. My heart broke (again, as if it hasn't broken enough in this post). This is why I kept them together. Claire and I looked at each other and then looked at Auggie. I said, "But Auggie, you'll be able to play with Nate by yourself." And Claire said, "Yea, you'll have Willem all to yourself." And I said, "And Ollie," and she said, "And Xavier". And he abruptly stopped crying. "Oh, okay." And off we went.

Timmy enjoyed his day of relaxation home with me. And Auggie enjoyed his day of being Auggie with no one having to guess which one he was.

So I don't know if we've done the right thing. They love and support each other (like on the first day of school when Timmy was crying because Mom and Dad were leaving and Auggie came over and put his hand on Timmy's shoulder and said, "it's okay Timmy, I'll take care of you.) and miss each other when they're not together (like yesterday, after school, they practically sat on each other's laps to watch Scooby Doo). And at the same time, they are doing and working and playing at the SAME things, which I'm not sure will ever lead to their own creative persons.

I want them to want and need each other and at the same time to not want or need each other. Just like some day I want them to want and need me, and well, especially when it comes down to doing their laundry, I don't want them to want and need me.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Lucky Lady's Miss Liebe

I was five sitting on the counter in the yellow kitchen my mother made. I don't know why she made it yellow, but the yellow rooster plates are still etched in my mind, as if I were still eating my poached eggs on wheat toast off of them. We were packaging venison. The white paper and, more importantly, the white tape seemed so clean. Not a few days before, I watched through the back window as my father spoiled the pristine virginity of the snow and my consciousness by dragging his kill across it, like some hunter displaying his victory in front of all the community members. I don't remember eating the venison, I just remember its soft, bloody flesh as we packaged it to freeze.

We are not hunters. Paul Bunyan and me. We hunt for firewood and lichen in the woods, and sometimes we find a few of our spawn hiding behind trees or rocks. I've hunted for missing cats and dogs who've run away. But I've never hunted an animal to kill.

Hunting season opened here in Vermont on Saturday. It's a big deal for most. For us it means we get to drive 5 miles down the road for three weekends this month and have a fresh cooked Hunter's breakfast served to us in the Baptist church annex. It's convenient, cheap, and delicious. Fresh baked bread? Local eggs and maple syrup? No dishes? Uhm, yea.

Hunting season also means more traffic on our small little dirt road. Lots of Fords and Chevys driving up and down. There are a few hunting camps on our hill:

This one is sagging in the middle. And it would be all right with me if it miraculously burned down some predawn morning. And no one would be able to trace it back to me, except now I mentioned here that I wanted it pretend I didn't say that.

And this one is so much cuter and tucked a little bit further back into the woods but I still can't understand how it can fit the large men who drive the large Fords and Chevys up the hill. There are usually four or five trucks parked in the driveway. But then again, now that I think about it, there are usually two or three men mulling around on the porch, probably forced out the door by the stench of the venison farts.

Yesterday we walked up to meet our new neighbor. The horse, that is. This is Peeter's Baby Bea Belle, straight from Petticoat Junction. She's right out of a storybook and at 16 hands tall we're expecting great sled rides this winter from this Percheron. Our trails will be packed and ready big girl!

And I don't think I've ever introduced you to Spring the cow. Kelly and her husband Randy are the true homesteaders on the hill and she milks this momma every morning and every evening; unless, of course, she's about to give birth. And then everybody gets a little break.

The first hunting season we lived in this house we heard a shot ring out very close to the homestead. The boys were three months old at the time and my protective forces kicked in. I heard some whooping and hollering from the woods and started to hike in their direction. I didn't have to get too far up the trail when I came upon the hunters. They looked a little scared that I was approaching despite their general excitement at having tracked and killed a six point buck. It turned out to be our neighbor, "who had been hunting this land for years". I was angry that she hadn't asked for permission to hunt on our property, which is the etiquette here in Vermont; BUT, our land isn't posted and so by law, we can't be too upset. One of these days I will get those signs up on our property lines "Hunting by permission of the landowner ONLY!" Someday I will.

A few years ago a man was shot dead here in Vermont during hunting season. He was sitting in his favorite recliner, probably sipping on his favorite beverage, most likely watching his favorite t.v. show. Shot dead by a hunter who missed his target. The bullet went right through the house.

Last night at 4 p.m. I heard another reverberation of a gun shot. I slipped my jacket on and stood on the porch to see if I could hear whooping and hollering, the victory of the hunt. Nothing. Just the whimper of Miss Liebe on the other side of the door. She wanted to come outside with me. But this is the time of day when the accidents happen. When hunters shoot each other or kill dogs who were mistaken for deer.

Miss Liebe got a new collar for her birthday, which happens to be today. It's orange.

And she gets to wear her pretty party dress these days. It's orange too.

Hunter safety. It's an important lesson for all, even if we're not hunters. Because this girl...she's gotta lotta life left in her and I don't want her shot dead sitting in her favorite green chair, chewing on her favorite toy, waiting for her favorite person to come home.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ode To My Dear Cochineal Bug

How is that when I grind your dried bodies up and steep them in my distilled water, three times over, you can make my heart sing as you do?

How is that when you're added to a pot of hot simmering water, you can make my legs go weak?

I could bleed your love and die a hundred deaths just to have you near me.

Oh fuchsia, dance with me. Let's tango together.

And then rest with me in the sun. And we'll let our dreadlocks intertwine.

Just come with me, my spinning wheel is right in here.

How do I love thee?

I cannot count the ways.

Dear Cochineal Bug, will you be mine?

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Battle of Fredericksburg, also known as The Battle of Clifton Park

As reported on Wikipedia:

The Battle of Fredericksburg is remembered as one of the most one-sided battles of the Civil War. The Union army, led by none other than some guy named Burnside, suffered terrible casualties in futile frontal assaults against entrenched Confederate defenders led by Lee.

The casualties sustained by each army showed how disastrous the Union army's tactics were. The Union army suffered some 12, 653 casualties (1,284 killed, 9,600 wounded and 1,769 captured/missing). The Confederate army lost 5,377 (608 killed, 4,116 wounded, 653 captured/missing).

I was reminded of this battle as the Green Mountain Girls also suffered terrible casualties this weekend in the futile frontal assaults against the entrenched B league teams. To put it in simpler terms: we got our asses handed to us. We came under punishing fire from all sides and being only a subordinate, I had little control of the situation, but feel lucky to be alive.

Our battle opened West of the city at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, November 6th. Major General Captain Lori Miller sent two divisions from the Left Grand Division into a previously unseen gap in the Raider's defenses on the right. By 7 p.m., a thick fog began to lift, and the initially sluggish movements began to pick up speed. Major Andi and Major Michelle formed the main attack, supported by Major Tiff and Major Susie. An artillery duel between the Raiders and the Green Mountain Girls lasted for about an hour. General Burnside commented about Major Andi's goal: "It is glorious to see such courage in one so young." However, the Green Mountain Girls were met with such high counter-battery fire that they were bombarded by artillery and suffered great losses.

The Green Mountain Girls tried to switch things on again in the afternoon of November 7th, but they were met with a heavy Confederate counterattack. Because of the foggy conditions, the Green Mountain Girls could not provide much assistance, especially from the subordinate lines. They were driven back and chased by the Warrior infantry, raising concerns that they might be trapped in the league. Eventually, the division of true B leaguers and the subordinates were recommended to strengthen the Union line and the assault brought on by the forces from Connecticut were ground to a halt.

The initial assaults by the Connecticut forces were brought on by 10 p.m. on November 7th, but because of the steep-banked drainage ditch full of vodka that the Connecticut forces were drinking from, the subordinates from the Green Mountain Girls were able to mount an attack that lasted all of 2 goals. The leader of the Connecticut forces, an artillerist by nature and a bitch by birth, was quoted as saying, "A chicken could not live on that field when we open on it." And sure enough, the women of the Green Mountain Girls Brigade, who had to cross a wide open plain, were one massed target. Attempts to shift the attack failed because of swampy ground, and the girls were roasted on the spit, once again.

Despite feeling some hope on the morning of November 8th at the prospect of the Raiders failing to show, or showing up so hungover that they would puke all over the ice, the Six Union divisions that were sent in were met with repeated attacks by players who, despite being hungover and tired, continued to punch and hit and push and hold us until our fearless leader, Captain Major General Michelle folded and landed in the penalty box. Watching the carnage from the center of this line, a position now known as Michelle's Hill, General Michelle was quoted as saying, "It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it."

The falling of darkness and the pleas of the Green Mountain Girl's subordinates were enough to put an end to the attacks. It was later written, "The charges had been desperate and bloody, but utterly hopeless." And it has been reported that after hearing the battle was not a battle after all but more of a butchery, President Lincoln was "heart-broken at the recital, and soon reached a state of nervous excitement bordering on insanity." Lincoln himself wrote, "If there is a worse place than hell, I am in it."

That afternoon the Federal forces retreated across the river and the campaign came to an end. The survivors of the Green Mountain Girls, however, promised each other that they would enter into battle again and that to stand next to each other, despite the carnage, was an honor not to be passed up. We lose one Major General Captain Lori Miller to pregnancy but our spirits are uplifted at the promise of the future generations, who may actually be able to skate with some of these beeatches and kick their asses in future battles. We'll have a team yet girls...just give us 15 years!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ode to Balls of White Flour Dough

The cold is starting to infiltrate the middle toe of my left foot. It's the toe I let frostbite into one cold night in the depths of hell.

It is officially stick season here in Vermont. The colors have died and they crinkle under foot as we help with the process of their slow decomposition.

The darkness prevails, once again, and seeps into our lives earlier and earlier as we turn our bodies away from the sun.

I am making a pot roast for a friend that just had her uterus removed because she had a fibroid the size of a 14 week old baby in it.

The debt guy just came to unload his liquid dept into our propane tank.

The dryer is broken and so I have sheets and towels drying from the beams in our living room. It's like we live in a tent city. I'm okay with this because it just prolongs the debt guy's inevitable return.

I just hid the letter that Claire wrote to Santa Clause asking him for an American Girl doll. I want to tell her the truth, crush her spirit, break her innocence. Santa only brings one gift to our house. How am I going to explain that Santa ran out of American Girl dolls? That shit isn't entering this house.

We have an alpaca suffering from an ulcer. Things don't look good.

And then I remembered that it was Thursday.
Praise the great spirit that it's Thursday.
Because do you know what Thursday is?
Thursday is bagel day.

Dean Menke of The Backdoor Bakery makes these beauties for me and Paul and the spawn. They are the best bagels I have ever tasted in all my life, and I've tasted a few bagels. I would drive 13 hours and 8 minutes to get these bagels. And you should too. And while you're standing at his backdoor, if you have time before your 13 hour 8 minute drive home, you should try one of his almond croissants.

Whenever the spawn run from my monster mini van to their school's front door, I'm reminded of the story of Brer Rabbit and how he tricked Brer Fox by saying, "Please don't fling me into that briar patch yonder, please...whatever you do, for the Lord's own sake, please don't fling me into that briar patch yonder." And so Brer Fox does just that and then he, "sees he's been had." And Brer Rabbit sits down on a chinkapin log and combs the tar out of his hair with a chip and yells back to Brer Fox, "Bred and born in a briar patch, Brer Fox- Bred and born in a briar patch!"

I just want to yell after them, "bred and born on bagels, bred and born on bagels!"

So, with all the cold and dark and debt that's coming our way these days, I'm very grateful to have a little round ball of white flour dough that I can slather with cream cheese, and slip a fried egg white into, and then all of it seems to go away. So in honor of balls of white flour dough I'd like to play this song...which is a hint at what might happen to me if I eat too many of them.

Baby Got Back - Sir Mix A Lot

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Yea, Maybe

Paul Bunyan and I made a mistake. We made a fairly big mistake. We built our dream home next to a shooting range. It was a big mistake. We moved in when Claire was 8 months old. We moved out when she was 2.

This was Claire at 2.

This is Claire now. Well, not right now.

It was a beautiful house. Beautifully designed by HER handsome husband. Beautifully built in a beautiful neighborhood.

And then I said this,"I can't stay here."

And Paul Bunyan said this, "What the hell are you talking about?"

And then I said, "I can't read a book in a hammock without hearing a gun shot."

And Paul Bunyan said, "Why would you want to read a book in a hammock. You have a two year old?"

And I said, "Someday, I want to read a book in a hammock without hearing a gun shot."

And Paul Bunyan said, "You're about to have twins, you'll never read a book in a hammock. Ever."

And I said, "I want to die in the house we find. I don't want to die in this house with gun shots reverberating off of the walls."

And Paul Bunyan (after much pleading and convincing) decided to do this:

I loved this house.

Let me repeat: I loved this house. I will always associate this house with Claire's toddlerhood, new puppy Liebe, big snowfalls, the beginning of Paul's woodworking fetish, many a miscarriage and the conception of the twins. I loved the blissful newness of everything, especially our walk-in shower, and the curtains I sewed for Claire's nursery.

But it was a mistake. However, when we look back on the experience we walk away with this:

Our savior. The man we turn to when we need something done. He is Paul's man crush. But we won't go there. Here's my point. Are you ready? When I was stuck in traffic here in the house 6 months after the boys were born and Paul Bunyan comes home to tell me he is starting an alpaca farm, I pretty much said, "I'm staying out of this." I didn't want the weight of that mistake on my shoulders. I was still sore from the hefty error of judgment from the years before. I stayed out of it. But Paul Bunyan powered through. He scooped poop, he buried dead babies. He built and fixed fences, he built and filled the hay loft. He clipped toe nails, gave shots, and once a year sheared those suckers. He showed animals at Alpaca Shows only to be ushered out of the show ring, and practically laughed at. I know he felt defeated. I know he has felt doubt. I know he has wondered why he did it. I know he has felt regret. Well, this weekend. This weekend he felt something for the first time:

Pride. At 2nd place.

Maybe this whole alpaca thing hasn't been a mistake after all Paul Bunyan. I'm very proud of you.