Here We Go…

Somewhere, deep in my soul, I must thrive on chaos. Or at the very least, some part of me must seek it out, as it seems that I keep finding ways to throw more spinning plates in the air. Our latest crazy? A fence project and a bedroom shift, all in one weekend!

The fence project idea blossomed a few weeks ago when my mom visited and saw, first hand, how challenging it can be to keep my super active kiddos in our backyard. We love our backyard but the garage is way too appealing to them and they can disappear so quickly around the corner of the house, so while she and I were chatting one morning, we decided a fence would be extremely helpful. And somehow, my dear husband did not veto the idea when I suggested it to him that night, because you’ve got to be kidding me if you think I was going to the one building it! I’m the planner, not so much the doer, of these kind of ventures (but I was the one to find the sweet sale on materials from Menard’s, so “yay, me!” for that!).

So really, this fence chaos didn’t come out of nowhere and ultimately it is going to mean for much less chaos in my daily life at home with the kids. I can look past one super crazy weekend and see that pretty clearly. And the great news is, the vinyl portion is all done (minus the gate which is on hold due to backordered hinges, boo!). My dad and Ben got everything dug and set and it looks fantastic. Of course, Harrison now keeps talking about playing Angry Birds over the fence, but he’ll learn pretty quickly when he starts chucking toys over it that Mama is not going to play that game. Keep it in the yard or find something else to do, sweet child of mine! The chain link portion still needs to be set and stretched (or whatever technical terms you use to describe putting up a chain link fence), but Ben is confident that that will come pretty quickly. So no totally enclosed yard yet, but we’re getting there!

The extra crazy idea came last night as Ben and I were talking before putting Lincoln down for the night. We decided (after I had some very, very rough nights of (no) sleep this week) that it is time to get the baby out of our room. The only way to do that, as you may recall, is to get Harrison and Raegan in a shared room. And thus we had our extra burst of crazy this morning when we started combining their rooms into one right after we all got up this morning. HD was pumped, playing Project Overseer (“How’re ya doin’, Mama?”), and RL ran around carrying books from one space to the next while Ben moved the crib and I got all of the little pieces put in place.

30 minutes later and the deed was done. I think it looks sweet and cozy in the room, but appearances are not really the goal here. We are, of course, looking for everyone to get as much sleep as possible and that may be tricky here for a bit. I’m sure bedtime will take a little longer and the mornings might start a little earlier should there be a bathroom break or crying spell or whatnot for the new roommates. But I’ve got to hold on to the idea that I can handle the early mornings so long as I’m getting good, solid sleep (without a freaking pillow on my head) the whole night leading up to that point. And seeing as Lincoln has been going from 9:30 or 10:00 until 5:00 or 6:00 (sometimes even 6:30!) without nursing, we really could be in business here, since I won’t hear him until I need to hear him.

While this isn’t a terribly insightful blog post, I’m sharing it with you so you know the background and the history of our latest (crazy) change (because I can pretty well guarantee that there will be shenanigans and stories to share in the coming weeks from all of this room shuffling). However, much like the fence, I think the long term benefits are going to outweigh the short term chaos. Or, at least I really hope that is the case!


I pin a lot of crap on Pinterest. It’s true. I love the website and all the pretty things. I want to pin all the pretty things and then learn all the pretty things, make all the pretty things (even though I haven’t touched a sewing machine in years) and eat all. the. pretty. things. Such eye/mind candy Pinterest is! But I’m a realist and Pinterest just isn’t real. I mean, again, it is pretty and there are lots of pretty ideas floating around on it, but for Pete’s sake, there is no way I am ever going to learn, make, or eat all of the pretties I pin. Absolutely won’t happen.

And even though Pinterest does its best to guilt me with its food and workout routines and Best Parent Ever techniques, I don’t buy it. I know there is no such thing as a perfect person or parent (there might be a perfect pastry, but the chances of me making it these days are slim – who has the time?!). And I won’t let a website fool me into feeling bad about myself because I can’t actually do or make or be all the things I pin. I am good with that. And because I am good with that, I get to do a celebratory dance any time I actually do accomplish something I found on Pinterest (which means I’ve only done this dance a few handfuls of times, but hey, that is realistic when I consider the three real-life pretties I must attend to day in and day out).

So, Pinterest rant aside, I am so stoked that one of my happy dances got to be in honor of this:

I actually managed (with many helpers) to make a “Believe there is good in the world/Be the good” sign! And the way it all unfolded was pretty cool. 
First there were the barn boards that my in-laws so kindly brought for me. Their old barn fell victim to a tornado before I ever met the Welsch family, but they’ve kept some of its pieces, using them for various projects, and fortunately some were still available for my little art scheme. My FIL cut them for me and Ben trimmed the edges and this is where we started: 

From there I enlisted the help of my mom who is far more artistic than I am but who still didn’t want to just free-hand the lettering. Instead we searched Word for a good font, played with the sizes of various words and came up with this (“GOOD” is actually the biggest word on the board):

My mama is also a smart lady and it was her idea to use carbon paper (did you know such a thing still exists? Well, thankfully it does at Eakes Office Plus in Hastings, anyway!) to trace the letters on the boards. This was great until we realized how rough/weathered some of our boards were. Let’s just say we had an awful time seeing the word “World”!

From there it was paint time. Buttercup on the “Be the Good” and cream on everything else. Even though I can’t wear it, I love me some good yellow!

 Between nursing sessions, I helped paint. 🙂

Three boards in:

A few days later, it was time for our lovely work to go up on the wall. My dear math teacher hubby devised a pretty awesome way of making this happen. 1×4 boards with eye hooks and some heavy duty wire to hang from screws in the wall and we were in business.

Brass screws attached the boards to the boards (huh?) so that our creation will be fairly easy to relocate should we ever choose to relocate.

 Almost there!

Getting the sign up on the wall was actually a little scary (to me). The steps in our front entryway are STEEP and Ben had to be up on an extension ladder to get the screws in that would align the sign with our front door since there is no actual floor right in front of where it now sits.

 See? STEEP!

With my help, we got it balanced and on the screws and, viola – sign!

Totally worth it, eh? The final product is amazing (and pretty!) and it just so happens that when I sit in the living room’s rocking chair, I am directly diagonal from this great message. This wasn’t why I chose this location, but it is a happy coincidence. I actually chose this spot in our house because everything else is covered in pictures and it was the only place that could house a 4’x4′ sign. That and I wanted it to be a saying that our guests, family, and friends would see whenever they left our house…something to take with them to believe and be in a world/society that tends to sensationalize and exploit the bad.

It wasn’t until my dad made the comment “Words to live by” on a Facebook picture of the work in progress that I truly realized my other desire to have this in our house. I really do want my family to embody these words. We don’t have a list of family rules posted anywhere in our home but now that we have this, we may not need one. When life boils down its most simple and most pure, what more is there than believing in and being good to others? Yes, there will always be the bad (moments, days, acts, people, etc.). But when we focus our attention on the other, the good, we build kind hearts and caring homes. And if we can carry that good, that love, with us, then we have the ability to help others do the same. By no means do I think one little pretty from Pinterest is going to change the world, but if it helps me and mine remember what really matters in life, than I’d say it was well worth the pin, the planning, and the finished product.

A Pirate Says, "ARRRRRRGH"

I wish BabbaCo was sponsoring me to write this, but even though they aren’t, I’ve got to sing the praises of their monthly subscription service for kiddos age 3-7, the BabbaBox. Holy Moly Cow. COOL thing!

Earlier this summer, my parents offered to get Harrison, my little preschool stud, a subscription service for his birthday present. So I did some asking and some looking online to compare different ones (like the KiwiCrate, Citrus Lane, etc.) and decided that the activities (arts, games, books) with the BabbaBox looked like the best fit for us. My mom did the ordering and then, viola, the goods started showing up at our house the end of July.

Truth? We still haven’t done a thing with the first month’s offering (Sorry, Mom!). We were traveling the day after it came and life was crazy and I wanted to save that stuff for when Ben went back to school, so I put it up on a shelf for a later date. Then, this week, another one arrived. Again, I wanted to wait until I was ready desperate, so I left it on the kitchen counter, unopened – that is, until this afternoon…HD had already had his share of PBS and the Kindle, and the other two were still napping, so I decided to pretend like the package had just arrived in the mail today. HD is pretty observant, so it could have been totally possible for him to call my bluff and say, “No, Mom. That’s been in the kitchen for days”, but he’s also 4 – it worked like a charm! I had him all excited about the package with his name on it and we tore into it on the couch.

Much to our delight, we found the coolest activity cards and supplies to get going right away with our “Pirate Treasure” box (although they have yet to show up in a box…always an envelope. Mom, I’ve been meaning to ask you about that. We don’t care that it’s not in a box, but is that some sort of green shipping option? If not, it’s funny that their name and packaging aren’t one and the same).

HD, not a costume wearer, got really excited about his pirate eye patch and wanted to get to the treasure chest decorating and gold coin hunting, straight away. So here is what we did:

Tacky glue and awesome plastic gems made Harrison’s treasure chest truly one of a kind (all supplies included in the kit, even the glue). I glued, he stuck, and then we played hide-and-seek with the coins in the next room while we waited for everything to dry. 

Of course, I had to have a pirate costume for hiding the coins, too, so I grabbed the bow from the original packaging and stuck it on my head. Perhaps a bit more fu-fu and sparkly than your average pirate, but hey, whatever works.

Our coin hunt (complete with verbal clues from me to him to find all 10) was very entertaining and lasted just long enough for the box to dry so we could add it to our fun and games.

It was Harrison’s idea, not mine or BabbaCo’s, to put the coins in two columns of perfectly matched patterned rows. “Look, Mama! A pattern!” Love this kid! Love him so much that we even went hunting for more pieces of our pirate costumes later when the littlest Littles were awake. I didn’t get a pic of HD w/ his bandana, but he did share the eye patch and treasure chest when he took this photo of me:

Eventually, Ben got in the fun, too, adding a treasure map of sorts to the treasure hunt. Making a map is one of the additional online activities, but rather than printing that off, Ben just made up his own version with torn up pieces of paper and quick sketches of items in our living room. From there, he would give Harrison the first drawing which would lead to the next item/clue and so on and so on until all the clues were found and he ended up at the treasure chest containing the coins. After 30 minutes of this (no, really, he played this for a solid 30 minutes, after 45 minutes of treasure chest decorating/coin hunting earlier in the day with me!), they switched it up and began placing the last clue in the chest and the coins in a final location. Harrison Ate. It. Up! For another 30 minutes!
And this is only one (and a half) of the ideas from this month’s box! What an awesome afternoon it provided for us. I can’t wait to see what else we discover, both with the box and with our own creativity. And the coolest part? Another one comes the next month and you get to have all new adventures. Of course, this would be totally possible with a little bit of effort planning on my part. Any small box or bag could be a treasure chest and the map/coins could be duplicated, too, but my brain is stretched too thin on sleep these days, so this subscription thing is currently a lifesaver. And don’t be surprised if you swing by our place and hear us saying, “ARRRRRRRRGH, Maties!” and “Shimber Me Timbers (HD’s version)!” in the coming days/weeks!

A Favorite, Continued

As I wrote last year, getting the goods for my planters is one of my favorite traditions we’ve established in our little family. I love, love, love doing something for Mother’s Day that lets me bond with my littles and reminds me of how awesome my own mom is. Because, frankly, she’s pretty awesome, and while I’ll never have her patience or talent for full-on flower beds or gardens, planters I can do.

Normally I make both of my planters look exactly the same. I guess that’s my Type A-ness, trying to make everything all balanced and perfect pretty. But this year, I couldn’t decide on a small enough number of plants to fit equally in both; there were way too many beautiful colors and interesting buds for me to narrow it down. It didn’t help (or maybe it did?) that I had a very anxious three-and-a-half year-old helping me with the picking…

For a wee bit I considered doing the plant shopping all by myself. Last year, even with Ben’s help, it was a tad difficult to choose my plants and keep Toddler Man from destroying touching every plant in sight. OK, in his defense, he didn’t actually destroy anything; he did, however, stress me out a bit as I tried to shop and I thought maybe I’d make the picking process a solo thing as a little gift to myself for Mother’s Day. But then, somehow, we all ended up in the van and at the store together, and now I’m so glad we did.

A year makes a big difference. Harrison was still all over the place but he listened to my directions about looking with his eyes, not his hands, and he loved having me hand him the plants so he could hand them to Ben to be put in the cart. He also loved tracking down whatever color I said I needed next. “Here, Mama! Here’s some yellow!!!” “This red one is mine! I pick this one!!” and so on is what we heard throughout our entire visit. There was, of course, some climbing on stacks of giant bags of soil and some frantic running through the aisles (done by HD – not me!), but really – it was a joy to have my whole family with me picking out my flowers and plants as they are the reason I get to celebrate this day in the first place.

The part of the process I did keep more for myself this year was the potting. I didn’t want too much help in this department, so before I began, I let Raegan go down for her nap and Harrison distract himself with other ventures (OK, let’s be honest – it was PBS. Ben needed to mow and it’s Mother’s Day, not Be Mother of the Year Day, so yes, I used TV to occupy my child for half an hour so I could play in the dirt in peace. And I’m more than OK with that!). He did, however, get in on helping with the second planter and did a good job of hanging on to each next plant while I dug its spot. Note: I tried to have him put them in the planter but his idea of “set in the hole” was more like “toss it at the planter” so we had to adjust a little on that. He was good at scooting dirt in around them, though. 🙂

Here are the final products. It is hard to tell from the photos that they aren’t matchy-matchy, but we’ll see as the warm weather continues, just how my contrasting colors and plants do. I hope to the high heavens I didn’t buy anything that shouldn’t be in a container this size, although I have a feeling this year’s offering could turn out to be quite the experiment/lesson (however, if that’s not a metaphor for parenting and life in general, I don’t know what is!).

Pete and His Sake

It has been just over ten years since I lost my first grandparent – my mom’s mom, Orpha. I was a sophomore in college when she died, and while I consider myself lucky to have had her as long as I did, there are times when she pops into my head and I wish I could see her or talk to her now. Having children, I think, has especially made this true, as I would love for her to see her greatgrandbabies and I would love to compare stories of motherhood with her. From what I hear, we may have had some commonalities to share…

According to his little sister, anyway, Cliff and Orph’s first born was quite the mover and shaker as a young boy. He was always on the go and always into something. Hmmmm…sound familiar? According to that same sister (and my dear mother, herself), Cliff and Orph’s second child was a little girl bound and determined to keep up with her brother (she walked at 9 1/2 months). Again, I say, Hmmmmmmm.

While we may not actually be at the 9 1/2 month mark or walking yet, Raegan is well on her way to doing whatever she can to rip and tear after Harrison. For starters, she is pulling herself up on EVERYTHING. Me, couches, tables, chairs, cupboards, toys – doesn’t matter. If she thinks it will give her leverage, she uses it. She can’t stand or get up unsupported yet, but I have a feeling that once she’s there, she’ll be, well, gone. She already crawls anywhere and everywhere at lightning speed; I can only imagine how quick she’ll be to explore once she’s up on two feet!

Speaking of crawling anywhere…today, Raegan tackled our basement steps and won. Now, before you freak out on me, they are carpeted and I was there with her the whole time. But yes, she crawled up all thirteen of them only pausing once or twice to glance back over her shoulder (where I was waiting with arms outstretched in case of backwards motion). The look on her face the couple of times she looked back down seemed to say, “Well, would you look at that?! I am so doing this!! COOL!”

Harrison also took to stairs at an early age and also at my own doing. Like a moth to a flame, he was all about crawling to the top of our basement steps in the old house, and quite frankly, I got sick of having a mild heart attack every time he did so. At 9 months I started working with him to teach him how to “turn and go slow” (backwards and feet first) and before long, he was a stair master (I’m tired enough that that pun is really working for me right now).

Today I decided to start that same lesson with Raeggebaby, and while she really didn’t get the going backwards and down thing, she certainly (obviously) was good with the up thing. Her face when she reached the top was just priceless. She’s already the happiest baby I’ve ever seen, but in that moment I could see not only the delight but also the pride that she was feeling from her accomplishment.

The other expression that I witnessed today on Sweet Baby Girl’s face, however, has me thinking that I might soon start channeling Grandma Orph via her two most used expressions (that I can still, to this day, hear in my head in her voice): “OH, Cliff!” and “Oh, for Pete’s sake.” You see, Raegan has lately (OK, always) been going after things she shouldn’t such as fans, cords, the gross icky metal kick plate at the base of the fridge, and – today – the leftover Angry Birds wall poster decoration thingies from Harrison’s birthday party last weekend. To her credit, she’s been kind of good at listening to my tone of voice when I tell her sternly to stop, or she was until today, anyway. Today, when she was going after the poster for the umpteenth time and I firmly told her to stop, she turned to look at me over one shoulder, smiled, and then laughed. Now I know she’s happy, but that particular exchange came across as ornery, not happy! Well, I take that back. She was happy. What made it seem ornery was that she seemed to sense that I was not!

So, yes. As we continue down this road of chasing after Big Brother and exploring the Great Big World, I think I shall be calling upon both Cliff and Pete quite a bit. This actually makes a great deal of sense seeing as Raegan is named (in part) after me and I am named after Clifford Raymond. Can’t say I’ll ever be able to explain Pete logically to anybody, but whoever said parenting was going to be 100% logical? Um, clearly no one; why else would we always be asking some random dude named Pete for a little bit of sanity?!

Mama’s Tradition

For my first two Mother’s Days, Ben was very thoughtful and got me personalized gifts that included pictures of my sweet, sweet Harrison. Last year (on the second of those two days), we went to Earl May on Mother’s Day and spent a small fortune on plants for my planters that sit by our garage. So I gave Ben a free pass for the future, telling him he could just buy me flowers to plant every year and I would be one happy mama.

Fast forward one year.  Now we have two sweet, sweet reasons to celebrate Mother’s Day, so we made the trek to Menard’s this time (slightly less fortune involved) and Ben entertained the kids while I picked out my plants. Now, I am no green thumb, but planters are one thing I can in fact handle. And since I started doing them several years ago, the plants have even survived. The whole summer! (Well, there was one year that the watering got away from me and the planters scorched, but you know – I’m learning). Planters are great though and I love picking out the different pieces that will go together in my pots, even though I pretty much always pick variations of the same things.

You see, this whole planter thing is another skill I learned from my mama. She is the one with a green thumb and has always had beautiful flower beds, a great garden, and gorgeous planters around her house in the summer. The first time I did my own planters, she was here to help me select the pots and plants. Since then I have filled them on my own, but I still follow her basic formula: some tall things, some dangling things, some green things, and some colorful things. Here is what this year’s creation looks like:

I’m getting to the point that I can throw these together pretty quickly and today I did so while making rice to go with supper and doing my best to keep Harrison from being too much help with the planting. I distracted him with my super cool empty containers which he carried over to his sand table and was doing who knows what with once they got there. I’m guessing there is a fair amount of sand no longer in the sand table!

What I love about this little tradition we are building is the interest Harrison took in it this year. Besides hijacking my empties, he really did want to help plant my “beautiful flowers” that we got for “Mudder’s Day” as he calls it. If you think about it, in the case of my planters, this is both cute and accurate!

After I got everything in the pots, I filled up our two watering cans and he got to help me water them in a bit.

Like the cow watering can? We just got it because Harrison has a major thing for cows. It is missing an ear and is surprisingly beat up for being new, but it trickles water very slowly which is great for toddlers because he can’t flood anything while watering it. I figure it is also a good lesson in patience for him. 🙂

Apparently my eyes are a little bigger than my pots because I ended up with a few too many sun annuals purchased. That’s OK, though, because our new house has some space out front that is decidedly random in terms of the plants that reside there, so throwing a few more in the mix is really no big deal. In fact, I wonder if that is what the previous owners did as well.

I tried to get Harrison to help me with this, but it was too close to supper time (i.e. too close to bed time) and he was too tired to really cooperate. Instead I ended up digging in a few more plants while he played, again, with the empty containers.

We have a few more to add yet, but we’ll try those tomorrow in hopes that he might actually want to get in on the planting.

Now I almost had him with the watering again after I put these in, but somehow he got our watering cans confused.

In case you can’t tell, this is my “How the Flip Diddle Did I End up with the Cow Can?!” face. I guess mamas can sometimes use a lesson in patience as well!

Happy Mother’s Day! Enjoy your own traditions, whatever they may be!

Book Overload, Perhaps?!

It seems that the only reading I am doing these days involves parenting books. I distinctly remember going through this same sort of phase after Harrison was born, so last summer and fall, I stocked up on novels from the library and soaked in as much “for me” reading as I could. You know, the really guilty pleasure kind of reading where very little thinking is required. Good thing because there is no time for leisure reading now!

Sadly, though, even my parental reading isn’t getting my full attention as I find myself trying to read not one or two of these helpful guides at time, but more like four or five. And the more I read, the more I wonder, what on earth am I doing to myself?!?! (yes, that is a double interrobang)

According to my mom, she and my dad read no parenting or baby books. Seeing as they are amazing parents, I am flabbergasted by this. Why didn’t they read parenting books?! How did they just DO it?! If they had read books, I could read the same ones and have hopes of becoming the same kind of amazing parent! But, like their amazing cooking skills where they don’t measure and it still turns out AWEsome, I cannot take their example and break it into a Type A/by-the-book formula that can be duplicated. Nope. Apparently I come from Just Wing It Stock which is so funny because I am so bad at just winging it. Hence the four or five parenting books at once.

Perhaps if I decided to wing a book or two out the window, I’d be better off. See, the problem is, I like what I read in each one. They all sound so smart. So right. And here is what I start thinking in my head as I read: If I just do these five or six or ten things, my life will be so much easier. My children will behave. They will sleep. Yes! That’s the ticket! That sounds good. Let me try that approach. We must do this. We must not do this. If only we remove/add/change/duplicate/avoid this, we will be The. Best. Parents. Ever. It also doesn’t help that books are like air to me, so when I read something I often take it as a vital fact. Perhaps my unhealthy obsession with the printed word is the problem here, eh? Sure. Let’s blame it on that…you know, as I sit here typing all my wordy words on my blog about parenting! Nope, no irony there!

So, yes. I do all this reading and believing and then I start to forget. What did that book say? What did that doctor or psychologist or expert or whatever-she-is recommend? Why didn’t I write that down? Or highlight it? Or dog ear the page? How do I do half of this approach with part of that one while avoiding this or that MAJOR error from that one?! I don’t think I have enough room on my refrigerator to post all the little reminders. Maybe I should start writing them on the walls? Not sure that even with this new, bigger house, there would be enough room for all the “rules” that all of these books make me think I should be following.

Gee. I wonder why I’m hearing birds in my minivan?!

Let’s not forget the other complication here. If I don’t have time to read all of these books I am currently reading, my teaching/coaching/taking grad classes husband certainly does not have time for them. So that means that my tired brain is trying to absorb all of this lovely, uber helpful information and then relate it to him. Brilliant. So I read a chapter out of one book, decide it is The Answer and then share it with Ben. Then a few days later I read another chapter out of another book and decide that it, too, is The Answer. But somehow it doesn’t quite jive with the other book. So now what? What to do to make each new Answer fit???

Truly, I bring this upon myself. Most of these books are ones that I asked for, bought myself, or borrowed from a friend. I cannot fault my family and friends for supporting my reading habit because I have fueled it completely. It’s funny though, because now, when a family member, friend or even random acquaintance starts talking about another “new” parenting book that I just “have” to read, my spirit soars a bit and I think, “Yes! New Answers!” Then my spirit sinks a bit as I think, “Oh, Crap. New Answers!” 

I think what I am really learning through all of this reading of multiple books at once is that parenting is hard. It is also a bit of a crap shoot. I think that is why so many books about it exist in the first place. Each kid and each family is a little bit different, so the kicker is that there are no Answers. There are only theories, and what works for one may not work for another.

So why I keep torturing myself with these books, thinking that they will make all day every day easy breezy is beyond me. I think I need to go back to (trashy) novels.

Talk Radio Bird Song

Growing up, I heard a lot of “You look just like your mom!” and it’s true. I resemble my beautiful mother in many ways. What is also true is that I’m a total daddy’s girl…so much so, that when I speak to him, I still call him “Daddy.” And while we may not have been hearing for years that we look alike (Side Note: I do have his upper lip; a little known fact that I myself did not learn until high school during the one and only time he shaved off his mustache – Mom made him grow it back), I have come to learn that there are many ways in which we are very similar.

One such similarity is the love we share for talk radio. Now my dad is a morning show/humor kind of talk radio while I am more NPR talk radio, but the gist is the same: we both get a kick out listening to the goings on in the world via radio. We both also have a tendency to call in to talk radio shows. For years my dad has been doing this – requesting songs, making comments, winning stuff. I think one time he even won tickets for a plane ride around Yankton, or maybe he did that twice? I don’t know, he’s done this so much I can’t keep it all straight! What I do know is that cool as it is to call in and win stuff, the best prize, in my dad’s eyes, is being ON the radio. (Second Side Note: I think in another life my dad was a pilot and in the one before that he was a DJ.)

While my dad is the pro, my own call in tendency is just starting. I actually get nervous about speaking in front of others, even on the radio, so I’m not so quick to dial like my dad, but last fall I made my first call to no less than one of my favorite NPR shows – Car Talk. That’s right. I love Click and Clack. They make me laugh every time I listen to them, probably because, in some ways, they remind me of the other funny old farts in my life (Grandpa Cliff!). Our Chrysler had been making some funny noises for some time, so I called and left a message for them (sound effects included). Sadly they never called me back to have me on the show. Here’s the magic, though, of Click and Clack and talk radio – even though I didn’t make it on air, the noise went away!

Fast forward to this spring. As many of you know, I have been driving my kiddos for naps for some time now. Not every day and not always long trips – sometimes I come back and park in the driveway while they snooze in the back – but I have logged some serious miles this spring on quiet Nebraska highways. Well, they should be quiet, but something is amiss, and as far as I can tell, there are four possible answers. Either I have completely lost my marbles (not unlikely), the ditches in NE are full of song birds (I don’t know – could be), NETRadio has begun playing bird songs over top of their afternoon classics (odd choice), OR there is a bird living in my minivan (Oh. Good. God. I hope not!). But yes, I kid you not: while driving, I keep hearing birds!

At first I thought the bird noises were just happening when I slowed down to make a turn (hence the ditches theory), but then I started noticing it while just cruising down the highway (hence the NETRadio theory). And now it just seems to happen randomly, so unfortunately that leaves me with the lost marbles or bird in the van theory. Now, some you may also know of my insane/intense fear of birds, so as you can imagine the thought of a bird in my car is not welcomed. Well, song birds don’t really freak me out, but still. The irony of all this is not lost on me.

So anyway, I have a feeling that another call to Car Talk is in my future. Sadly I am not talented like my brother and can’t whistle very well, but I have been practicing the noise around the house (yep, lost marbles sounding more and more likely), so maybe I’ll be able to replicate it well enough to get on the show this time. And if not, maybe it will just go away anyway. That would be nice because I really don’t want to go looking under the hood for stowaways!

Look, Mom! My First Pie!

My mother is famous for her homemade pizza. In high school, my friends would come over to watch The Real World on Tuesday nights and they would line up by the oven the minute she said it was done. These little parties grew (and contained enough hungry teenage boys – and girls!) so much that the first pizza, cut into eighths, wouldn’t be enough for everyone to get a piece on the first round. Eventually it got to the point that we had to make four pizzas just to feed everyone and have some leftovers (the leftovers are SO good). While my mother is a very patient and giving person, there was no way she was going to make four pizzas each week for my friends without my help, so just like that, I became her little pizza apprentice.

At first I would just help mix the simple ingredients of yeast, water, oil and flour and let her do the heavy lifting of kneading the dough. But then I started to do that as well and by the time I left for college, I was getting pretty good at making dough. Of course these pizza nights continued whenever I was home for a visit. Even in the first few years after I got married, a night of having friends over for pizza was not uncommon whenever I happened to be in Yankton. I learned right and I learned well and I make damn. fine. pizza. Have for years. Just like my mama!

What my mom never taught me to do, though, was make pie crust. Just like her pizza crust, her pie crust recipe is simple and amazing, but I never once helped her make the darn thing. I have watched her make many a pie over the years and helped with the filings, but for some reason (uh, because she’s GOOD at it?!), she always did the dough.

Somehow, in the almost six years of my marriage, this lack of skill has never been an issue. I make plenty of sweets and desserts, but I’ve never really had to make a pie because other family members do that when we have gatherings and it’s not like Ben to request such a treat. But yesterday our neighbor offered up his rhubarb patch and we just so happened to have a huge container of strawberries in the fridge that Ben had just purchased and so he suggested, ever so innocently, that a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie would be good. Good?! We love that pie. Ben’s grandma, Louise, makes it and it is my favorite thing ever. But me? Make a PIE?! Pie means pie crust and I had never even attempted a pie crust before, much less a whole pie and our favorite pie at that!

Like I do so often, I called my mom to get her recipe. She emailed it to me because my arms were full of screaming kids and when I looked at it last night, she added this little note to the end: “Good Luck, Betty.” Funny lady! It actually took me a second to get the joke and then I snorted when I did; it was quite possibly the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time. But wouldn’t you know it? It made me even more determined to make the pie.

This morning I made a quick trip to the store for cornstarch for my filing and then I followed the steps on my great grandma’s recipe for pie dough. As promised, it really was simple. After it chilled all morning, I set to work rolling the dough, adding my filling, and putting on the top crust:

Here is what I learned. Even though my I’ve never made a pie crust with my mom, I have watched her do it enough that the whole process kind of felt familiar. I formed the dough into the same round disc like she does and used the pie plate to measure out how big my circle actually needed to be. Now I highly doubt she would have ripped the top crust right in the middle or flutted the edges so poorly that the juices ran over in the oven, but hey – this is my first pie. Give me some credit, would ya? I mean, it did look like this when it came out of the oven:

Not bad, eh? Except for those darn edges. Oh, well. That is what self-cleaning ovens are for as far as I’m concerned!

We let the thing cool, although I thought Harrison might dive in the minute he saw it. “Oh, wow! Look at that! I love pie!” is a rough transcript of what he said upon first seeing it. So if my husband hasn’t been requesting pie, I guess I can count on my son to pick up the slack! It probably doesn’t help that we have a Backyardigans DVD where they make pie. Like a samurai! Yes, samurais who make pie. And now HD is a bit mystified, it seems, that his mama, too, can make a pie. Does that make me a samurai in his eyes? Awesome!

Now, I need some of you pie making people out there to tell me what in the world I did wrong, because proud as I am of my first pie attempt, I’m a bit baffled as well. The thing tasted amazing. The crust on top was yummy and flaky and the filling was delish, too. Here’s the only problem. It looked like this:

There was no way I was getting a piece out in actual pie piece form. It was just a big old mess. And what was left in pan was super juicy, like this:

Not that we really cared. We threw some ice cream on top (except for HD, who refused ice cream. He said it did NOT go on pie. Ben & I did not listen to that, by the way), and all three of us pretty much inhaled it.

So it was edible and enjoyable for the palate, if not the eye. But if you have a hypothesis (another word Harrison used today – thank you, very much, Dinosaur Train!), please share!!

So yes. I made a pie. And I have a feeling I might just make some more. It didn’t take me that long to get good at the whole pizza dough thing – just a few years. & I doubt my boys will complain if I keep practicing my pie skills even if it takes that long to really get the hang of it. Everyone keeps telling my husband he’s too skinny – maybe this will help.

Good Lucky, Betty! Ha!

UPDATE: Shhhhhh! I had a piece of pie for breakfast the morning after making it (oh, come on. if doughnuts and danishes can be breakfast, so can pie!), and it came out in pie form! My mom thinks maybe it wasn’t 100% cool & that is why the juices ran so much. I guess next time I’ll know that three hours does not automatically equal ready to eat temperatures! But, yummmmmmm – such a good breakfast treat! 

To the Farm

Typically, when you hear that a dog has “gone to the farm,” it is not a good thing. In our situation, though, this will not be a euphemism that we use with Harrison; it will be the truth. Our puppies are going to my parents’ farm in South Dakota.

This has been a heartbreaking decision that has come after weeks of contemplating and wish-washing. I love Ozzie and Mara to pieces. Look at these faces. How could you not love them to pieces?

But the reality of our current situation is that they are not getting the love and attention that they need from us. I have two other small things (size-wise, that is) in my life that demand my eyes and hands and my heart day and night. The poor puppies get pushed to the end of the To Do list most days and that has made me feel sad and guilty to no end. Did you know Mommy Guilt applies to pets as well as kids? Well, I’m living proof that it does, and so we started talking about options.

My parents love dogs. We have always been a dog family, which is why I pushed Ben to get a dog (it was eventually his idea to get two!) from the very get-go of our marriage. After two years, he gave in and we brought home Mr. Ozzie and Ms. Mara. It was wonderful except for the fact that I was teaching in a town over an hour away and it was mid-winter and I was pregnant. As much as we have loved them from the very beginning, they have never received our full attention. Back then, though, there was still time for some of this:

After the first baby arrived, life got slightly hectic. But after a few months, we were able to settle into a routine and life was OK. Mostly the dogs were happy because at least they could have us in the evenings when we’d hang out in the family room and they’d be up on the couches with us. Now, with Baby No. 2, our evenings are once again as busy (or worse) than our days, and with school and track and everything else, it has all just become too much. Then there is the added factor that Harrison and the dogs have never been close. They run from his grabby toddler hands and I fear he isn’t learning the best pet care skills from us when most of the attention we do direct at the dogs is less than positive. When you add to the that the excessive barking at anyone coming to our door or walking by our house, plus the getting out of the yard and roaming the neighborhood, plus the sudden extra messes in the house (regression?? attention seeking??), I am overwhelmed. I guess if I could get the Dog Whisperer to come to my house, things might not be ending like this, but I can’t, so I’m looking for other avenues of help.

My parents are that avenue. It has been almost two years since they said goodbye to Joey, their own full-sized Australian Shepherd, who was part of our family for 16 years. There have been a number of reasons why they have waited to get a new dog, but now I believe it is because they were meant to take mine. As much as I hate to give O&M up, I can rest a little easier because I know they are going to place where they will be Loved. Plus, I selfishly know that this way I will still get to see the puppies when we get together with my family. I hope they can enjoy the space to run on the farm and the snuggles in the recliners that I know my parents will give them. Plus I know my dad. He will give them umpteen treats and carrots a day – how could they be too sad??? I just hope that what I don’t see is too much hurt and confusion in their little brown eyes as to why their home isn’t my home anymore; that will officially break my heart.

I don’t know if any of us know how permanent this is. But it is what we are doing for now and I guess we’ll see what happens. It is so very bittersweet because I’m relieved to give up some stress and deflated by the feeling of having failed to have been enough for them. Perhaps someday our little family will be more conducive for puppies. Until then, I can only hope that Ozzie and Mara know we’re doing this so they get the love and attention they really deserve.