Spring Chickens. Literally.

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When I married a farmer, I didn’t really consider the notion that my kids might be more like him than like me. We had it all worked out. He didn’t expect me to be a *good* farm wife, tending to cattle or driving a tractor or throwing bags of seed (though if you want amazing shoulders, that should be in your workout plan). He agreed to my demand that I never come home to find a deer hanging in the shower or any sort of dead animal that didn’t look like it came from the grocery store. That lasted for 13 years, when I opened my deep freeze and saw bird feet sticking out from under the ground beef, and he “lovingly” placed a taxidermied duck atop my desk where it leered down at me, knowing I wouldn’t touch it to move it.

And then we had kids. Farm kids. They didn’t make any agreements with me about critters in the house, and they can’t comprehend that I grew up in a neighborhood without livestock or wheat. My oldest daughter didn’t seem to understand the concept of traffic on roads until she was school age. Why would she? We don’t have traffic here.

Over the years I’ve had turtles and frogs in various containers in the house. Once, I heard some weird scratchy noises coming from a large Tupperware box that mysteriously appeared on my dining room table. Earlier that day, my daughter had mentioned a desire to start a crawdad farm. These two events didn’t connect in my brain. Yes, I screamed when I peeked into that box to find a dozen crawdads skittering around in what used to hold leftovers from Sunday dinner.

A few years ago, the kids talked their dad into buying them some chickens. They built a coop. They made a nice fenced area for the chickens to roam around. They told me there would be fresh eggs, and I wouldn’t even have to go get them. And then they brought home the itty-bitty chicks and set them up in a large Rubbermaid bin in my living room.

Excuse me, I said. The chickens have a lovely home out there, by that elm tree. Why are they in here with us? Oh, they’re too little to be out there alone now, they said. They need to stay in here, with a heat lamp, for a few days. *grumble*

Now it’s become an annual tradition. When the local farm stores get their baby chicks in the spring, the kids talk dad into going to get a few more. Then they laugh at my abject horror over having livestock in my home. This was Collin’s first year picking out two chickens for himself. He named them Jello and Nathan. They’ve already moved out to the coop, but now Maya has an incubator running in the basement in an attempt to hatch some eggs.

I thought it was all worked out. What I didn’t anticipate was raising a herd of kids for whom farm life is so deeply ingrained. Bringing frogs and snakes and chickens in the house is their normal. I guess it’s my normal, too.

Prairie Wandering

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I took my kids to my hometown this week for spring break. We spent an afternoon on the trails at Konza Prairie biological station, where researchers care for and study a section of tallgrass prairie, one of the few that remains in the US.

In a few months, wildflowers will pop up everywhere. In the fall, you can see why they call it tallgrass. Some of the Big Bluestem can reach 10 feet tall and has roots 12 feet into the soil.

Right now, it’s prescribed burn season. Fire is, and always has been, part of the prairie landscape. Spring fires make way for new plant growth, and keep large shrubs and trees from growing where they shouldn’t be.

We could see smoke from several spring burns on the horizon as we walked the trails today. As the afternoon light turned golden, we stood close to on of my favorite places on Earth. At the top of the rise, atop one of these Flint Hills, you can look in one direction to see my hometown and the river valley. If you look the other way, you can see what the prairie looked like hundreds of years ago. There are no buildings visible. No cell towers or signs of modern civilization. Just hills and golden grass.

The photo above holds so much anticipation. The expectation of an amazing view just a few steps away. The hope of a brilliant Kansas sunset over the prairie. The promise of flowers sprinkling the landscape come June.

This is my happy place.

Evening Run

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March, you sexy beast, I can’t even handle how gorgeous you are. Took a little run to the hay meadow (at the top of the rise in the road, on the right/north) this evening. My boys and my ancient hound, Piper, accompanied me.

Collin got tired pretty quick and wanted to turn back for home. Then he said, “I know a faster way to get home.” I expected him to suggest cutting though the field, which would involve crossing a creek and picking plant debris out of our clothes and shoes. But no, he just said, “we should run back.” OK. Not what I usually do when I’m tired, but let’s go!

Hannah’s Fantastic Essay

Every year, several classes at our local school participate in the Patriot’s Pen essay competition, which is sponsored by the VFW. Students are given a theme and write an essay on it, and then the local and regional VFW groups judge them. Winners of these levels can go on to state and national competition. This year’s theme was “What Freedom Means to Me.” Hannah did not win the competition, but she wrote from her heart, and I think she did an amazing job. A few friends asked if she would share her essay. She agreed, so I’m posting it here for her.

One thing that may not be clear if you haven’t heard Hannah or the boys talk about their experiences before – they had several really good foster families over several years, but the one they were with the longest (almost 4 years) was not so great. As time goes on, the kids reveal more and more incidents that illustrate how rough foster care was for them. They were removed from their biological family for good reason, but then the people who were supposed to do better continued the poor treatment.

What Freedom Means to Me
by Hannah, age 12

The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. The state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. That is freedom’s exact definition, but what freedom means to me has a whole other definition. Some people are born with all rights of freedom, while many people are not. Kids and adults all over the world are being forced to do things that are not of their choice. They don’t have freedom to have fun, dress how they want, or even stay with their family forever. This is where my life comes into play.

When I was 3 years old, I was put into foster care and was there until I was 9. That was definitely not freedom for me and my two younger brothers, who were in foster care with me the whole time and experienced almost all the same things I did.

When I was in foster care, I didn’t have the freedom to feed my brothers or help them when they were being hurt. What doesn’t help the matter is that they were too young to help themselves or really even understand, being an infant and 1 years old. We were not fed or treated well when we needed it. Now, I have freedom from those nightmares of my reality, because I was finally adopted by a family who feeds us and takes care of us properly.

Most people who haven’t experienced foster care and adoption don’t really understand all the freedoms that you lose and gain during the process of it all. People all around the world¬† go through this with their dreams of freedom being crushed. Freedom is a special thing that you should cherish every moment of, because when it is gone, it could always be gone.

In conclusion, people should all have their freedoms in any way, without the judgment of others. People should have the freedom to stay with their families and not be traumatized. This all comes from my own experiences, which I think is horrible. But it is all OK now, because I have freedom!

This entry was posted in Other.

Of Course I Broke My Blog

I’m super good at breaking things, y’all. Somehow when I updated some things here, the newer posts got jacked up and looked… well… horrible. But don’t worry. I will have them fixed and back for your viewing pleasure shortly.

I’m in Las Vegas this week for the ABC Kids Expo, so expect some crazy good giveaways when I return. (Also got to meet Maria from Change-Diapers.com. Go check out her site if you want cloth diaper info!)

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I just saw the new Rachel Zoe collection from Maxi Cosi and Quinny. It’s fabulous, of course. Check out the details on the stroller! Leather tassels on the zippers. Gold hardware. Lots of contrast. Awesome.

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Back to walking this massive trade show for now. Dreaming of foot massage time tonight!

This entry was posted in Other.

Love and Allergies

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Eight days until my final presentation of work for my master’s degree. Nine days until I get to walk across the stage and officially be done.

Tonight, as I finished the final research paper for one of my classes, Hannah and Collin came into the house triumphantly holding brilliant purple flowers they had harvested by the creek. “These are for you, Mom!” Collin’s bunch still had some roots and dirt dangling from the ends.

I instructed them to place them on the kitchen counter, and not right by my workspace as they first intended. These flowers, beautiful as they may be, make my allergies go crazy. Having them right by my laptop would be an instant headache. Frankly, I prefer not to even have them in the house, but who can resist the beauty of this sweet gesture? I picked these for you, Mom.

How did I get so lucky?

The Best Dress (and Accessories) – Spring 2015

linen-dressUntil a catalog arrived in the mail a few weeks ago, I had mostly forgotten that Chadwicks of Boston existed. They probably forgot I existed for a while, too, because it’s been years since I had need of suits and professional-person clothes. Since I was in the market for dresses to wear to weddings and graduations (mine is 18 days away now – cue panic), I flipped through the catalog. Curvy people aren’t always successful at ordering clothes online, so I vastly prefer to shop in person where I can try things on, but I’m so glad I took a chance on this linen a-line dress.

It’s a simple, classic style, which I adore, but the bright green color is what really drew me in. I ordered a size down since I’m still slowly shrinking, but that size actually fit me perfectly. It runs a bit big. The cut is super-flattering and the dress is comfortable to wear, even for hours and hours of dancing at a wedding reception. I liked the green version so much that I ordered it in navy, as well, for events where I don’t want to be so…. bright green. :)

The solid color and clean lines mean you can go classic on jewelry with a string of pearls, or pair it with a long, trendy necklace in a contrasting color. Or skip the necklace altogether and add a sparkly broach. It’ll look good any way you accessorize it!

maurices-wedgesI’ve been finding every excuse I can to wear these Maurices Maybel wedges this spring, so they’re my go-to pair for this dress in either color. Not only are they cute, they’re comfy, too. I confess, I ordered these shoes in black, as well. They’re just so pretty with nearly any outfit (yoga pants excluded, but I won’t judge if you go that route). Skirts, dresses, skinny jeans, leggings…. it doesn’t matter what I wear with these shoes – someone says, “I love your shoes!” every.single.time.

coach-snakeskin-bagA snakeskin bag is the perfect final touch. I’m madly in love with this Coach Campbell Python Leather Satchel, but my handbag investment funds are low for now. This Henri Bendel Faux Snakeskin Clutch is more compact, but offers the same texture contrast at a much lower price. If the Coach bag is Mr. Right, this George Knightly Belted Tote can be Mr. Right Now. It’s $23 at Walmart, which means you can adore it for a few months and feel no guilt when you part come fall.

What are you wearing this spring?

This post contains affiliate links. It also contains non-affiliate links because I love shopping and affiliate status doesn’t affect my choice of outfit.

This entry was posted in style.

Keeping On.

My house is a wreck. Really. Not in the “oh, there’s one toy out of place in an otherwise spotless home” type of way. It’s for real, horrific messy in this place. However, I am now 26 days from finishing my master’s degree. It’s been a rough semester, and my housework has fallen by the wayside as I’ve surrounded myself with research, writing, and coffee. Since I’m operating on even less sleep than usual, I’ve also lost the ability to speak in comprehensible sentences much of the time, too. I miss writing here, but for this semester, something had to give!

After graduation, I’m going to spend a few days just hanging out with my kids. I’ve promised Maya an entire day of Minecraft. We’ll see what the others decide to do with their much-deserved Mom time.

Once the kids are tired of me again and I’ve put my house back in order, I’m going to focus on writing. Blogging here, writing just for fun, putting some ideas down for a novel…¬† Anything is fair game. I’ve been in academic writing mode, which doesn’t speak to my soul the way other creative endeavors do.

Just a few more days….

Where There’s a Will…

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I’ve been sick this week. So sick, in fact, that I begged the kids to help me keep the house from absolute disaster. Of course, my illness came about the day after my husband went out of town for a week.

Not to worry, though. My sweet boys are on the job! They usually need my help to get laundry in and out of the dryer up top. I suggested a step stool, but I guess their way was more fun.

Teaching Chores to Little Ones

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In our house, we have chore zones. They currently rotate weekly, so if the bathroom is your zone, it’s your responsibility to deep clean it once and make sure it isn’t haz-mat level gross the rest of the week. If guests are coming, you wipe down the mirror and counter so they’re not horrified. The others will do the same kind of deep clean plus maintenance in the kitchen, dining room & hall, or living room & entry.

My girls are old enough to be able to handle most of the chores on their own. We have a set of chore cards that I made on heavy paper, so if they ever forget exactly what I’m looking for in a clean bathroom,  they can check the card for a reminder. My boys are younger, so my expectations are lower. They need to check the card and make a good attempt, but I often need to follow up, especially if they have kitchen zone. Keeping up with the number of dishes to be washed is enough to drive an adult crazy, so I understand when my 9 year old struggles.

But they’re learning! In a few years, I expect the boys will be able to accomplish their chores like professionals. When they move out, perhaps their bachelor pads will not overflow with dirty dishes and dust.

One positive change I’m seeing with the zone system is that the kids are beginning to think before leaving items on the floor. It’s not perfect yet – they’re still kids. But when one person sees how frustrating it is to have other people’s belongings all over their recently cleaned zone, they’re more likely to think twice about leaving their own stuff laying around.

Collin is only 3, so he doesn’t have his own chore zone yet. He is expected to pick things up when asked, and to help with his own messes. When the older kids do their zone chores, Collin picks one and helps. Today he “helped” Maya scrub the shower in the kids’ bathroom. He held a scrub brush and moved it around, while she did most of the work. When the shower was rinsed and sparkling, though, Maya was happy to share with him the pride of a job well done. Even though he is not old enough to scrub a shower on his own, he’s learning that it feels good to see results from hard work.

Sometime during the week, I try to have some sort of a reward for anyone who did an excellent job on their zone. Tonight, for example, is ice cream party night. All kids who have completed their zone chores may enjoy the ice cream party. There’s no punishment if they don’t get the job done, but there’s a reward if they do. That’s what’s working in our house right now.