Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Beginning of Something Called a Worry Free Summer

My anxiety creeps in, like my children do in the middle of the night when the nightlight is off and they're scared of the shadows in the dark, and I wake up next to it- that gut feeling that there is something always wrong- and wonder why I was born this way. Because I feel like I was born this way, as if the genetic marker to worry was established along with my blue eye chromosome. And there was my dad, holding me for the first time, exclaiming, "Oh look dear, she has your propensity to worry. I can see it in her eyes."

Sydney's dying, she needs a walk, we need to spend more time with her and with the boys- practicing throwing a ball, and catching one too, and Claire must read more, pick up her room, everyone needs to pick up more, how do I ask them, all the time, without sounding like I'm carping, carp carp carping, we don't have anything for breakfast, oh my god that just means we hit Beaudry's before school and partially hydrogenated soy bean oil and POP TARTS for breakfast, really?, and the chickens are in my garden and what if we put them down by the alpacas, and what if they come up and what if they can't find their way back down, and I don't have any furniture inside or out, and the furnace is on again, and my in laws are coming and there is dust on my dust and and and..

And then there is this.

And this.

And this guy too.

And him too.

And this, which just signifies the beginning of something that makes me not so anxious.

When burnt marshmallows are the only thing anyone worries about.

I can't for the life of me stop the worrying. But there are nights like this one when I forget that I have anything to worry about.

I sometimes worry about the bugs. Because those no-see-ums are eating us alive.

But generally, I think I just need more evenings with my wombats. And maybe a few more s'mores.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

And the Brace Faces Begin. First Spawn. Phase 2.

Claire recently had to write from the perspective of one of her favorite fairy tale characters.

The first week she had to continue writing right from where the original story ended.

But the next week she had to write from her character's perspective 20 years later.

This is Claire as Cinderella, twenty years after she got married:

Dear Diary, I had a little girl. Her name is Belle. She is a wonderful child. I love her so much. She has dark brown hair and green eyes and her hair is down to her butt. She has beautiful dresses and an under bite.

No, I'm joking. I added the under bite thing. But yeah, the rest was all her.

So, Phase 2 is going well. Except that we're facing a fairly significant issue.

We can't kiss her goodnight with all that rubber and metal on.

I just steal mine in the morning, except that I have to contend with caked on dried saliva.

In honor of Claire's lost crooked smile, I'm including this Mother Goose nursery rhyme:

There was a crooked man,
And he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence
Against a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat,
which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together
In a little crooked house.

And changing it a little bit for her sake:

There was a crooked girl
Who had a crooked smile,
She found a crooked dollar
Against a crooked pile,
She bought a crooked piece of gum
Which got stuck in her crooked spacer
And they all laughed together
When they looked at her in her face gear.

I'm so mean.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My Son, the Early Evening Werewolf

Dear Auggie, I just put you to bed without dinner. It's been a long time since I've had to do that. You were busting up into tiny pieces. Howling at the moon, except the sun was just starting to sag below the mountains. Your fangs were foaming and beastly hair started to grow from your ears.

But it's all my fault. So, I wanted to write this quick note to apologize to you.

I'm sorry I was trying to be cool on Friday afternoon.

Who wouldn't think their mom is the BOMB for setting up the family tent in the back yard?

How was I supposed to know that your peaceful moment of building Lego cars in the tent,

your moment of after school bonding with your brother,

your afternoon in the sun with your botty,

would turn into a long hour or two of naked wrestling?

And Okay, I'm sorry I set the tent up on a slight incline so that I had to interrupt your deep sleep to drag you, on occasion, back up to the top- where your pillow waited your return.

And I'm sorry that Pop Pop and Gramma wanted to come see you play T-ball Saturday morning, where they witnessed you hit and run around the bases every time you were up at bat, without once ever being thrown out.

And I'm sorry that you had to eat one hot dog and one hamburger at lunch and then swim all afternoon until you had to get out to eat three homemade chocolate chip cookies; and then I'm sorry Pop-Pop gave you a gold one dollar coin to spend at the bake sale at your sister's Minor Key concert, where you purchased one bag of red gummy fish and two individually wrapped Twizzlers. I'm sorry you had to sit and listen to the same songs you hear your sister sing every single day. But yesterday, we had music attached.

And then I'm sorry we had to say good-bye to Grandma and Pop-pop because we had to get to Mud's before the sun went down. And I'm sorry you ran around all night long pointing a Nerf gun in everyone's face and taking laps in the pond in a canoe paddled by your father, as the sun set behind us.

And I'm sorry that you got a chance to sleep again in the tent with the sounds of the coydogs and 'who cooks for you' owls concocting the mood of your dreams.

And I'm sorry you got to go down to the country store with Daddy in the morning to pick out a donut or two- I know you had a chocolate one because I licked off the frosting when I finally got to see your smiling face. I'm sorry you got to go up and down the stairs about a hundrid times to fly your paper airplane off of Daddy's balcony.

And then I'm sorry you had another four hour playdate with Tanner. I heard you spent the whole day in the pond with the mating frogs and that you ate a bologna sandwich. And probably shot the Nerf gun again.

And I'm sorry you had to do this before we left Mud's house:

And then I'm sorry we made you ride your bike, when it's really one fingernail too big, down on Gillett Pond Road, up and down the hills, with brakes that aren't in the pedals any more.

I apologize for all that fun, and obnoxiously unhealthy food, and over-exhaustion and I realize your outbursts tonight were my fault and not yours- that I combed your werewolf whiskers and sharpened those fangs.

I know you didn't fall asleep thinking that I'm the coolest Mom on the hill, but maybe the next day, or the day after that, you'll wake up and see that yea, Dad's got a cute ass, but I can pitch a six-person tent like a pro and make the best chocolate chip cookies this side of the Mississippi. Someday.

I love you tons,

p.s. don't worry about the homework we didn't get to. Daddy will help you with it tomorrow night.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Even Tom Hanks Isn't Going To Make Me Buy a New Dryer

Let's dryer has been broken for the good part of three quarters of a year. If you've dropped into our house unexpected you've probably had to duck. Hopefully not under my underwear. Or worse yet, Paul Bunyan's.

I felt like we lived in a scrub tent city all winter. Not really in squalor, just dampness.

We had a nice old repairman come in at the end of January to tell us, $136.00 later, the piece of shit was worth shit. He estimated it would cost $350 to fix, and well, he recommended we buy a new one. But buying anything new for this house takes months, even years, of gnawing and digestion and then a real long crap on the toilet to actually purchase the purchase.

Paul Bunyan offered to buy me a new one for my birthday. He insisted, actually.
But I said, nah. I just want a new pair of jeans.
Paul Bunyan offered to buy me a new one for Mother's day. He insisted, actually.
But I said, nah. I just want a fried egg on toast.
Paul Bunyan offered to buy me a new one for Father's day. He insisted, actually.
But I said, nah. I just want you.


I dreamt a few months ago that Tom Hanks came to visit our humble abode for an overnight. I know the t.v. was on and it's sad to admit that I think we were just hanging around watching it, but I think that's all we did. And then when it was time to retire, Paul Bunyan and I walked him to his guest room and then all I see are my hands holding out to him a bath towel, hand towel, and wash cloth, all neatly folded and piled on top of each. And then Paul Bunyan's eyes grow wide as he looks down at the pile of folded towels and then he looks right at me as if to say, "Holy Shit, why are you giving Tom Hanks the parchment paper towels?" Like there is another choice. And then I look at Tom, and then back at Paul, and then back at the towels. And I say, "Sorry, our dryer is broken." And I smile.


Yes, sheets on the line, dried in the sun, windblown with a slight scent of earth, or even better yet lilac....blissful. Towels baked in the sun so they get so crispy that they actually make your skin bleed? Not so blissful. But we're saving the polar bears, at least in my head, and that's where it counts.

And I'm saving the spandex in my jeans to boot.

It's only when those fat feet come slapping themselves up the stairs in the morning, and the bodies that are connected to them climb into bed with me, that I get to steal a touch of my children's soft milky skin and it's only then that I feel a little guilty about the scratchy towel thing. But not even Tom Hanks coming to my house will change anything.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

G is for "Grow" and that's Good Enough For Me

Things are about to pop around here. They're exploding from the inside out. It's very greeeeen?? If you could say that in a confused way, that would be great. Like when you first uncover your skin after a winter's worth of layering and you realize that you actually have skin. It's so weird. Isn't it?

The trees are back. It's hard to imagine that they were ever bare.

But other things are growing too. The lilacs are pouring their scent over the hill, and somewhere half way up from the alpaca cave today I was blasted with sweet success. Spring is victorious.

And the honeysuckle is deep in preparation for the party they hold every year when they decide to open up the doors to the honey bees and then we have to call the police because the bees are totally in violation of Huntington's new noise ordinance. All that freakin' buzzing.

And then just this morning, I was on my hands and knees weeding my weeds. I know. That makes no sense. But rhubarb, it's like a weed. Except that I can't get it to grow, so I can enjoy it cooked down with sugar, on my ice cream, just like Kerry showed me, or mixed with strawberries, in a pie. Right? No. Because my weeds are outgrowing the biggest weed itself. Except the biggest weed, itself, is like a dessert's person gold mine. Grown right here in Vermont.

And the chickens are growing. Won't be long now before they miraculously lay one (hard shell) egg A DAY! Have you ever thought about that? How can their bodies do that? Out of a hole? A hard shell? That's just weird.

Our bonfire pile is growing too. Keep on keepin' on wind. We'll have the mother of all bonfires pretty soon folks. Just keep growing out your eyebrows so they don't look so funky when they get burned the 'f' off.

Oh, and my ass is growing too. Because I just can 't quit you chips and salsa, or beer for that matter. You just go so well together. Like M&M's and popcorn and a movie. There just aren't too many simple pleasures in life. Okay, well maybe there are lots. But you're my favorite.

And my boys are growing too. Do you know how I know? They pee their beds. It's a sure fire way for me to know. Yea, Yea, Yea whatever, you think I'm crazy. I know that. But I swear they piss their beds when they grow. It's a brain/body thing. I wouldn't lie to you. NOT about that.

So, too, my laundry pile grows.

Let's see. Oh, I know what is growing....the number of times I have to pimp for my cat. I'm like his little go to guy. He's like king of the animal mafia and he keeps popping off his simpletons. And then he just sits there and expects me to pick up the body parts and throw them in ditches to hide his dirty work. I'm sick of it. But I'm cornered too. I have no way out. And he knows it.

And speaking of animals, the number of times Sydney tries to escape the property line is growing. I found her today at the bottom of the hill, the garbage she just pulled her snout out of was still smeared to the top of her head. I keep thinking to myself, "Ah, this is it. Her last hurrah. She's going out with a bang this time. She'll be dead tomorrow." And then three days later she recovers and wags her nasty old shedding butt in my general direction, and tries again. The old wench (as my dad calls my mom).

Well, yes, it is true- we are growing towards growing. There are more playdates, more bikes to buy, more new tires for more cars, more bags of fiber to get to, more seeds to plant, more compost piles to turn over, more books to read, more nails to clip, more bodies to wash, because there is more dirt, more mouths to feed, more weeds to pull, more more more.

My life is definitely and delightfully full...and growing. I hope yours is too.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

And the Brace Faces Begin. First Spawn. Phase 1.

Claire became a woman yesterday. No, not in that way. C'mon. I know all that talking of "blooming" got you thinking about that. "That" day will come, but it's not yet. I'll be sure to let you know.

She got a bonded expander in the roof of her mouth to fix the problem I prepackaged and gave to her on the moment my egg met Paul Bunyan's sperm- or the other way around- or however it works. Anyway, she inherited my faulty underbite and developed her own sense of style by adding her own personal crossbite. It's a gorgeous sight. When the light of her crooked smile shone from her mouth, I pictured her on a talk show with the next Oprah espousing natural beauty and the need for women to accept their natural inherited faults.

And then the dentist said, "Yes. You can fix this now. Even though she's 8." For a small price.

And then the orthodontist said, "Yes. We can fix this now. For this Visa Gold price."

And then Paul Bunyan said, "Isn't there a super model with a gap in her front teeth?"

And then I said, "Yes, she's beautiful. But I once knew a dog with an awful underbite. And she was underloved, and underappreciated, and made fun of by all her doggie friends and even by her owners, who had to laugh from around the corner as they peeked at her while she struggled at meal time to pick up her small pieces of kibble with only her lower jaw. It wasn't pretty."

And then Paul Bunyan, "Okay...okay. Fine. Charge it."

And then I said, "I already did."

And now she's a woman. All right, so maybe she isn't yet. And maybe she talks now with a lisp, as if her half chewed peanut butter sandwich is stuck permanently to the roof of her mouth. And maybe there was a moment of disgruntled disgruntling when she realized she wouldn't be able to suck on hard candy or chew gum for six months. And maybe there was a few tears of distress when she thought she wasn't going to be able to eat ANYTHING and that she was, in fact, going to starve.

But there is this general sense of ownership- the organized brushing/rinsing/waxing paraphernalia in her toothbrush drawer; the plastic picks (for moving the stuck food from the bridge) stuffed into her backpack for use at school; the key for "turning" the bridge, which notches open the roof of her mouth to make her upper jaw lay over her lower, flared in the air like a Chinese fan. There is a snap in her step, a bob in her head, a glow in her face.

That is, until, the purple face mask appears in 2 weeks.
Replete with the dreaded rubber bands.
The ones I use to shoot at my classmates in 6th grade. You know, to be cool.
The ones I stuck to my brace face to fix the underbite that I ceremoniously genetically created to make me, well, special.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

It's Been

It's been spitting something frozen all day. It's been raining solid snow all day. It's been flurrying white stuff all day. It's been simply glorious. I know you think I'm crazy. Maybe so. But it just gave me one more reason to roll over and cover my head.

It's been a beautiful day. It's been a hunker down kind of day.

It's been a rub my dog's ear kind of day. It's been a hang out in my bathrobe kind of day. It's been a let's sit and spin kind of day.

It's been a beautiful Mother's Day. One that will go down in the books.

My top ten reasons I love being a Mom:

1. My mom told me I would. My mom is always right.

2. As my children get older, they somehow make me feel younger.

3. They will be stewards of our land when I die.

4. They give me a reason to bake chocolate chip cookies.

5. They make me dance every now and again.

6. And laugh now and again.

7. And cry (in a good way ) every now and again.

8. When someone compliments me on my children it makes me feel like I'm sort of succeeding at something; instead of only being mediocre, which is how I do most other things in my life.

9. I can control them. mwaaahaaahaaa.

10. They teach me that try as I might, I have no control over the universe.

Okay, so maybe I have 11- I love kissing them while they still let me. And then I'll have to steal kisses when they're sleeping, but that'll be okay. Unless I'm only mediocre at that, and then I'll always be waking them up, and then they'll start to get really pissed at me.

It's been...It's been...a beautiful 8 years.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Day You Bloom

And for you ladies out there, I'm not talking about the day you, as a young girl turned young woman, get your period. Although you do, sort of, bloom that day. I'm talking about something larger. Larger than the moment you become fertile.

I've been slogging around this idea since seeing this thing:

Oh, get your mind out of the gutter. I'm not talking about that.

I'm talking about the idea that this cactus grows this long asparagus shoot and flowers only once and then withers in the hot desert sun until it looks like a pile of brown paper bags. And then it's done. Like over. Cycle complete. It's caput.

And this cactus flower too. One day. Of gorgeousness. With a little pink added in around the edges to make it even more spectacular. And then it, too, dies. Done. Forever.

And to think, perchance, our lives are like this. That we maybe have already flowered and are just withering in the heat? Dying after our one day of spectacular gorgeousness. I know. Deep thoughts for a Friday. Maybe too philosophical for today.

But I'll leave you with this. Because it's more of my view (not that the best has already been but that's it's sure to come). I've been rubbing my nose in Annie Dillard lately, getting up all in her neck.

She writes, "We know nothing for certain, but we seem to see that the world turns upon growing, grows towards growing, and growing green and clean."

And so here we are, growing towards growing. And perhaps our moment to shine, to burst forth in bloom, our one day to be spectacular with pink around the edges (or blue, or green or whatever color makes you feel beautiful) is that day that we decide it's our last. And maybe only WE know we've spent our lives propagating our bloom for this one day. And it must feel joyous. Joyous to bloom at the end and not the beginning.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Alpacapalooza 2010

I still lay awake some nights thinking WHY? But it appears that we are, and probably will be, alpaca farmers for a very long time. And I still don't know why. But here I sit with my spinning wheel to my right and mite salve to my left and I'm somewhere in the middle. I generally don't have to deal with the animals. And this is okay with me because then I'd be laying awake far more nights wondering why. However, there are a few times out of the year I need to be present; for example, when Paul Bunyan goes to work and an alpaca dies on my shift, in my arms, I need to be present. Or, for example, when Paul Bunyan leaves the farm to visit with members of the Mothership, and fences fail and alpacas are heading down the mountain to find greener pastures. Or twice a year when I'm called upon to wrestle an alpaca on toe nail clipping day. Or there was this one time at band camp when Jumping Jack sliced open his foot on the snow plow blade and Paul Bunyan decided to start soaking it and shooting his ass up with penicillin on New Year's Eve...after we'd had a few too many. Those were all memorable nights I needed to be present.

But then there is shearing day. And shearing day is always the first Monday morning in May. And shearing day is the day I bake scones before 7. And shearing day is the day I scoop the kids off to school as fast as I can. And shearing day is the day that I have labels labeled the night before to put on plastic bags for fiber. And shearing day is the day I look forward to THE MOST on the farm. It's somehow about me.

But thankfully we had the Simsbury crew up to help this year to help us out. Many hands make light work.

These are Paul Bunyan's high school buddies who miraculously left Connecticut at 4 a.m. and miraculously survived a harrowing drive North in record time to arrive just before any shearing began. Here we have Scott and Matt in the back row and Meagan and Brian in the front row. And you know who the half naked guy is. We all had to talk him into putting at least a towel on for the picture. You can see how Matt is leaning away from his naked ass. And do you see how Meagan has her eyes closed in the photo? She was mumbling something under her breath about Scott's dirty-ass hand on her shoulder. I think I heard something like, "get your dirty stinkin' alpaca spit/shit hand off my shoulder".

All I can say is that car must have STANK on the way home. Oh, and thanks guys for lending your hands, and feet, and elbows, and good eyes, and f-bombs, and laughter to this annual event.

But back to the action at hand. We really love our shearer who drives two hours from Jay, N.Y. to help us out. He had two other farms to hit before heading home last night!

I can't even tell you who this alpaca is. When they get all their hairs cut, I can't tell them apart! Kinda like the twins. And when they get pushed back out to pasture they sniff each other up and down, as if they're trying to figure it out too.

Jim is really good with the trimmers. I only noticed a few nicks on his own thumb.

Paul Bunyan is trying to figure out how he can do this without having to hire someone.

Well, the beautiful thing about shearing day is that everyone gets trimmed up nice and close.

They love to scratch their backs on the fence and roll around in the grass after their "blankets" are shed. Paul Bunyan does the same thing when I shave his back.

"Hey, You're lookin' pretty good. How you doin?"

I'd like to introduce you to a few of our rookies. These were the four first timers we had this year:

This is Earl. Matt (see above) had a pretty strong bond with Earl- which may have something to do with the fact that his nuts haven't dropped yet. I don't know though. Earl is small for his age but I think he has strong promise, especially with regards to his fiber...not necessarily his future breeding prowess. Especially if he has no nuts.

This is Sprinter (aka Cronus' REVENGE). Cronus was the alpaca no one liked who somehow snuck in a surprise offspring into the herd before passing away last summer. Sprinter is a joyful spirit and will add a lovely dark brown to the fiber colors being offered this year.

This sweet girl is Stars and Stripes. She'll be entering the show ring this fall for us. She is a beautiful girl with gorgeous fiber, which (I, ME) will enter into a fiber competition this fall. I particularly loved being able to see her stripes shine when her neck hair came off. She's going to be a contender!!

And last, but not least, is Lightning- born in a lightning storm. Her fiber is DIRTY and will unfortunately have to be sent off to be cleaned at the cleaners. Someone needs to talk to the management because this fiber processing girl can't deal with that kind of dirt. Lightning is a sweet heart and may be becoming one of my silent favorites. Her soft cria fleece will be a real treat to spin when it comes back to me clean.

And so now my fiber work begins. But also, too, the planning for 2011 Alpacapalooza. Supposedly someone is hiring bands and vendors. And Paul Bunyan is thinking about cutting a few trees for parking spaces and tent sites. Oh, that reminds me, I should reserve a few party tents. I hope you'll be able to get a ticket. I have a suspicion they'll set out fast. But I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Our Shiny Homecoming

Last summer when we returned home from Minneeeesota, I was dealt a rough homecoming because of a dying alpaca and a missing cat. And although we wobbled home from vacation this week with only 3/5ths of our family intact (2/5ths were left stranded in Detroit), and although we were limping up the driveway with a flat tire, and although we found our tulips crushed under the weight of 2 feet of snow, those of us who were home...were happy to be so.

Dogs were alive.
Chickens were alive.
Alpacas (so far) are alive.

We also came home to the tail end of this tale, one that's been developing on our property for over a year...when the big Super-Axe-Hacker came onto our property two winter's ago to strip some of our forests of Truffula Trees.

We shipped some of those Truffula trees (aka maple trees) off to a local mill.

Where they were cut into boards.

And planed on a big planer.

And examined by the figure out which boards will go to wainscoting and which will go to floors.

And then Mr. Lathrop, the truest Vermonter I've ever met- you can smell the maple syrup sweating from his pores, had a look-see.

But when the boards were cut and kiln dried, they arrived back on our property.

And Paul Bunyan unloaded them and stored them in the shop.

And then the construction began. We pumped out this corner. And added two windows.

But that was upstairs. So we took out the stairs. And made them go this way, instead of that way.

And added temporary stairs.

Which all seemed a lot of work to me.

Considering they were coming out in a few weeks anyway, when the real stair case was done.

Liebe thinks construction is hard work too. Here she is empathizing with Paul's sweaty head.

Here Mike is performing the very back breaking work of laying the new floors.

And then when that's done....the real staircase arrives.

And is put into place. And then landings are made.

And then we tiptoe around on unfinished maple floors, being careful not to spill our red wine.

And then we clear every piece of dirty furniture out of the room before we leave for AZ, and then we put plastic up in every doorway so that not (as much) dust seeps through the cracks and leaves a cover of film over all our surfaces.

And then we walk into our home, stomping through snow piles at the end of April, into a freshly sanded and coated maple floor. Wood cut from our own land, milled in a town 30 minutes away, laid by our savior, sanded and polished by a nice old man and his son.

Our daily noises echo in our empty house. I'd be happy to leave our mottled couch and our kitchen table that belongs more appropriately in a work shop down in the basement. We could eat off our shiny floor and move giant bean bags in to sit and chat. Think of the games of Twister we could have...and the dance parties.

But I have to admit I won't miss these sounds:

Although, I'd put up with them a little while longer...if only I could get Paul Bunyan to start on our master bath. I'm sick of trying to mop that plywood.