In which I am *not* kidnapped

Hubby carpools with my brother-in-law to work several days/week when their schedules permit, and on those days our van stays at the park-n-ride just a scant 5 miles from the house.  On other days the carpool only includes a one-way ride to work.  On those days hubby either has to drive alone just so he’ll have a vehicle to get home, or – if I have errands to do in town – I take him to the park-n-ride where he hitches a ride with brother-in-law.  Then I go into town later, do my errands, and pick up hubby after work.

This is how we currently function with one vehicle, living 50 miles outside town.  It works nicely except that brother-in-law is planning to move into town soon.  Until then, I often find myself at the park-n-ride alone in the cool of the morning.  On those days, I take time to read my Bible before heading home.  It’s a quiet, peaceful time, and I enjoy it.

Last Friday, on just such a day, I read my Bible and headed home.  As I passed lush patches of wildflowers on the winding country road, I decided to stop for a walk on the way home.  My midwife and husband have both been after me to exercise, and this was the perfect day.  The kids wouldn’t even miss me – they would doubtless assume I drove up to the post office to check the mail, or spent a little extra time reading my Bible.

I used the odometer to measure a nice level 1/2 mile stretch with a good show of flowers, then pulled over.  I locked the van and struck out on foot.  It was quiet and lovely, just as I had anticipated.  I picked samples of wildflowers that were new to me, to take home and identify with the help of the children.  I saw several whitetail deer cross the road just ahead of me.  I spotted 3 smallish hares – cottontails, or half-grown jack rabbits.  I’m a little embarrassed that I couldn’t tell the difference.  They were just a few feet away, crouching and hoping I wouldn’t see them, so I had a good long look at them as I passed.

I reached the half-mile point I had measured and headed back, feeling surprisingly good.  This would be an easy mile.  Maybe I don’t hate exercise as much as I profess.

I was almost back to the van when I saw my mom coming in her red Expedition.  I waved and smiled.  She pulled over and rolled her window down.

“Where were you?!  What were you doing?  Do you know what I thought when I saw your van parked and locked and you nowhere around?  I called your girls and they didn’t know where you were. I went back to your house to get Kaitlyn to make sure it was your van.  I called Perry at work and he had no idea.  I knocked on doors, and nobody had seen you.”

I laughed weakly.  “Sorry I worried you.  I was exercising.  You, uh, called Perry at work?  I’ll call him as soon as I get home.”

Kaitlyn popped out of Mom’s Expedition, giving me disapproving looks, and we walked over to the van as Mom drove away.   I asked Kaitlyn, “Didn’t it occur to anyone that I might be exercising?  Like everyone else in the extended family does on this very road?”

She snorted derisively, then gave me a long measured look as though it just occurred to her that I might actually be serious.  “YOU?”

I guess this means I need to exercise a little more often.

2 nightmares lose their teeth

Last night, I had an old dream with a new twist.  It was the common nightmare about losing your teeth – do you have that one?  I’ve heard that it’s very common especially among control freaks (who? me?) and generally means that you are afraid of having the “real” you revealed – having people see you without your game face, your company manners, your public front, whatever part of yourself it is that you don’t normally show the whole world.

This time, though, instead of being humiliating, it seemed rather commonplace.  In my dream, I noticed a very loose tooth without the usual sense of panic.  I remembered that I had often dreamed this before, but this time was obviously real since (in my dream) it had been loose for a long time.  Oh well.

And then the tooth came out.  No big deal.  Most of us will lose our teeth at some point, and for the first time I realized that this was not something to be ashamed of.  I was mildly surprised that it didn’t hurt at all, but expected it might if and I when I drank something cold.  I wasn’t sure if it had broken off and left a root behind or if it had come out entirely, but I resolved to have the dentist look at it very soon.  End of dream.

I told the kids about it this morning, wondering if it signified a change in my outlook or personality, amused at the very unexpected feelings evoked by a common nightmare, and went on with my day.

Later in the afternoon, I had what some might consider a real-life nightmare.

It was nothing, really, in the grand scheme of things.  The kids and I were at the local smalltown library and I went to the restroom at the other end of the building.  As I headed back toward the children’s room, I heard a noise: “Psssst.  Pst! Pst! Pst!”

I turned around, and saw 2 people sitting side by side.  One was a man, with his face deeply buried in his laptop.  Next to him, a woman motioned urgently at me with her hand and whispered: “Your skirt!”

My heart skipped a little beat and I felt my behind – er, I felt behind me.  Yes, my skirt was tucked.  Very high.  Very high.  You know that thing we all worry about?  It happened.  So I gave a little tug to fix things and smiled as I whispered a thank you.  She pointed ahead of me and said with a twinkle in her eye, “Well, I couldn’t let you go in there like that!”

I glanced just ahead and saw a full row of high school boys at the computers.  Yes, thank you.  Thank God for a total stranger with the boldness to say “Hey lady, your skirt is tucked into your undies.”  I pray I’ll have the same boldness someday if I find myself on the other side of that scene.

But you know what?  It wasn’t humiliating. My feeling of gratitude for what didn’t happen far outweighed the embarrassment.  It was embarrassing and I hope to avoid a repeat, but I was hardly scarred for life.  I assume these moments happen to all of us now and then, and I don’t expect to be any different.

And that seemed like exactly what I had learned from my dream.

Eggs: a lesson in life and death

We have some broody chickens in our hen house.  The Buff Orpingtons in particular think they are ready to be mothers, but they invariably let others have turns in their chosen nesting box, and the result is 18-24 eggs under one hen in the course of 2 days, far more than she can hope to hatch out.

We’ve wasted a lot of eggs this way, mostly when the girls decide without telling me to leave the eggs under one hen.  Usually I catch on within a day or two, when our egg production drops to half of normal because half of the hens are laying in the one box where the eggs aren’t being gathered.

This morning I found 16 eggs under a cranky buff.  I brought them in and not knowing just how old they were, I decided to make custard right away.  I would crack them one by one into a coffee mug and any eggs that showed signs of germination would go right to the dogs.

I cracked 9 warm eggs, one by one.  Six were fit for custard and 3 with small spots of blood went to the dogs.

The next egg held a lot of blood and a tiny chick embryo.  Disgusting, but fascinating.  We fished it out with a fork and examined it.  There were the beginnings of tiny eyes, and what we thought looked like a spinal cord.  We all looked, then tossed it in the dog dish.

A few more eggs went into the custard bowl, and then it happened.

I cracked open an egg and as the yolk slid into the mug I found another embryo nestled in the bottom of the shell – but this one was slightly more developed.  There was one other difference: this one was quite obviously alive.  This one had a beating heart.

I watched for a moment, trapped somewhere between fascination and horror, then called the girls over to see.  The heart kept beating.  The little curled-up baby chick was smaller than a dime, with dark eyes the size of matchheads and tiny buds where his legs and wings would be, but his heart beat clear and strong.  We watched the minutes tick by.  It kept beating, and beating, and beating.  He lay in a puddle of egg white in half of his egg shell, curling occasionally, and his tiny heart beat on.  The Boy asked me why we couldn’t just give him back to his mom.  Eventually, the children moved on to other activities.  After 2 hours, the tiny heart was still beating, and finally somebody ended it.

We eat eggs every day, and we eat meat.  We all know and understand that animals die for us, but this was different somehow.  We wanted to eat the egg before the chick began growing or let it hatch and grow into a chicken.  It hurt and horrified us to waste the life and death of one of God’s creatures, even such a tiny one.  The girls blamed each other for not gathering the eggs soon enough, and some rushed to put the broody hen into a separate cage with her own nesting box where she could work on hatching out the remaining eggs.

Chick embryo development, day by day

Are your kids accident prone?

This morning several of the kids were down on the trampoline.  The house was peaceful, but the sound of screaming drifted across the hills.

I wondered aloud whether they were happy screams and Deanna voiced her opinion: Assume they’re happy until you see the blood.

Actually, she’s right.  That pretty well sums up how I operate, and it has worked out well for us so far in spite of the accident-prone gene carried by their father.

In 16 years of child-rearing, we’ve never had one accident-related visit to the ER.  The Superman incident only resulted in a walk-in visit to the doctor’s office, for which we paid $300 for “outpatient surgery” because he applied a splint to her arm.

Deanna and I did go to the ER long ago for carbon monoxide poisoning when the furnace flue in our old house backed up, and we visited the ER again when a congenital issue acted up in one of the girls, but neither of those were injuries caused by accidents.  Well, the flue didn’t exactly collapse on purpose, but you know what I mean…

All in all, I think that’s a good record.  But I won’t get smug about it – I know that pride goes before a fall, and as soon as I check that “I’m a good parent” box we’ll have 6 visits in a month.

But what about your family?  How well does the ER team know your kids?  Are you brave enough to tell?

[poll id=”9″]

I suffer ignominy

It finally happened today, in a fast-food restaurant of all places.

I was forced to use the handicapped stall in the restroom because my belly was too big to let me close the door in the regular stall.

I generally prefer the roominess of the handicapped stall anyway – is it bad to use it if no one is waiting?  I like to be able to get far enough from the toilet that my bare legs don’t get splashed when I flush (ugh!).  But this was the first time I actually walked into the standard stall, tried to close the door, and found there simply wasn’t enough clearance between me, the toilet paper holder, and the door.

And I’ll say it once more: in a fast-food restaurant, of all places.   Am I the only one who sees the irony there?

Water woes, 2010

We made it through my birthday without the traditional freezing of the pipes, but 2010 is a new year with troubles of its own.

We woke up Friday to dry taps in the tub, and only cold water in the kitchen and bathroom sinks.  We’re hardy, pioneering stock so we didn’t panic.  We heated water on the stove for dishes, and to thaw the chicken waterer.  No baths, but we got by.  We figured if the pipes didn’t thaw by Saturday, we’d take baths at Grandma’s house nearby.  It would work out fine since there’s a huge family gathering at their house anyway.  We’re all going to be there – most of the 14 siblings plus offspring and spouses.  We’ll just bring some clean clothes and towels.  One of their bathrooms is under construction so they only have one right now, but we’re all family.  We can make it work.

By Friday night, the hot water in the tub had begun a slow trickle – hurrah!  But we had a new problem: the drain had frozen.  Water was coming in, but none was going out.  This was a problem.  We couldn’t take baths like that.  We couldn’t even leave the water dripping overnight to keep it from freezing again – the tub would fill and overflow.

There was no way around it.  I had to go outside and do the hair dryer thing under the house.  The temperature was 20 degrees and falling, so I bundled up.  I headed out with a hair dryer and an extension cord, impressing upon the children that if they loved me someone would be out to take my place in 10 minutes.

When I got down there, I was greeted by a rushing geyser.  The cold supply to the washer had burst.  I found the cutoff valve (my very smart hubby built cutoff valves into every part of every pipe where we might need them!) and took care of that.  No laundry until we fix it or until hubby is back in town.  Good thing we were caught up on laundry.

I got back to my original purpose, thawing the bathtub drain.  Two children joined me (they do love me!) and the process went surprisingly quickly.  We had an open drain in less than 10 minutes.  Hurrah!  Baths!

Somehow, nobody took a bath last night.  Not one.  What were they thinking?  I’m afraid to peer too deeply into those recesses.

Somebody who shall remain nameless swears that she left both the warm and cold water dripping, but this morning the hot was frozen again.  Worse yet, when I went under the house, I found another burst pipe.  This one was right at the first elbow coming from the water heater.  I had to shut off the supply to the water heater.  No hot water til we fix it or til hubby is back in town.

Now we were back to plan A, right?  Baths at Grandma’s?  No.  I called Grandma, and all of their water is frozen.  They have no hot or cold running anywhere in the house.  They are using a 55 gallon drum of water they brought home last night.  They have 7 children living at home, plus – remember this part? – a houseful of company today.

Now we’re up to Plan C: Heat water on the stove for baths and dishes.  Small people can bathe in an 18 gallon rubbermaid tote to conserve hot water.  Hair might get washed in cold water in the sink.

Country living at its best.

BAM! I’m hit!

There’s a first time for everything.

Today as I was leaving Costco, I was rear-ended by the vehicle behind me.  Legally, I’m sure it was her fault, but under the circumstances I completely understand why it happened and I feel partly responsible.

I was turning left out of the Costco driveway.  There was no traffic coming from the left, and just one car coming from the right.  Since I wanted into the center turn lane, there was no need to wait until that car had passed.

I drive a big van, so I start and stop slowly.  As I eased out into the intersection, the oncoming driver swerved into the center turn lane and switched on his blinker.  He was turning in just where I was coming out.  Since he was on the main road and I was coming from a driveway, he had the right of way.  I stopped halfway into the road and waited for him to make his turn.  I was blocking two lanes, but there was nobody coming from that direction.

Then – BAM!  The SUV behind me rammed me.

I’ve never been rear-ended so I have nothing to compare it to, but it felt like a pretty hard hit, especially since I was driving a 15 passenger van.  She must have been looking left and right, and hit the gas without stopping for her turn at the stop sign.  She obviously didn’t realize that I had stopped.

After the oncoming vehicle turned into Costco, I finished pulling out into the turn lane, turned around, and came right back in.  The lady who had hit me rolled down her window long enough to ask if I was ok – I was – and we agreed to stop and assess damage.  I wanted to see how bad it was.  I was sure my lights would be smashed, and I just hoped my back doors would still function.

To my very great surprise, there was not a scratch on my van.  Even the bumper gave no clues as to where it was struck.  Other than a rippled license plate, the other vehicle was entirely unmarked as well.  We assured each other that all was well and parted ways, greatly relieved.

In retrospect, I’m not even sure that the rippled license plate was anything new.  Maybe this wasn’t a first time for her.  If my license plate was mounted right on my bumper, the back one would have been rippled on my van too.  No, not from being hit today.  I mean from what I did last week.  😀

Life’s Little Lessons Best Learned Before the Crisis, #47

If the water in the toilet is going up instead of down, let go of the handle.  NOW.

If the water in the toilet bowl is already overflowing, it’s still a good time to LET GO OF THE HANDLE.  NOW.

If you are transfixed with horror at the growing flood surrounding you and your hand just won’t let go, at least call for help.  NOW.

He’s got it covered

Yesterday, The Boy took a long nap in my bed.  When he finally woke up, he headed straight for his room and shut the door.

“What are you doing in there?” I called after him.

“Oh, I’m changing my clothes.  I peed when I was sleeping.”

“You what?!

He emerged looking a little sheepish and followed me to my room to survey the damage.  I wanted to make sure he understood the gravity of the situation so I dramatically threw my arms into the air.  “Where am I going to sleep tonight?  There’s pee in my bed!”

“Sorry, Mom,” he mumbled.  Then his face brightened and he smiled encouragingly at me.  “But I peed on Dad’s side of the bed!”

Tis the season…

…to shut the door!

The weather has cooled beautifully here in south Texas.  The sweating has come to an end, and we’re enjoying the sort of fall weather that leaves us with silly grins on our faces.  But the mornings can be chilly sometimes, and we’re putting off the trip to the storage shed for the heaters.  So far we have stayed very comfortable if we remember to close all the windows before bed.

But today barely topped 60 degrees, chilly by our standards.  It’s time to break the summertime habit of leaving the front door wide open!

I’ve been issuing reminders right and left for weeks now:

“Close the door!”

“Don’t leave that door open!”

“Close the door!”

“I don’t care if you thought somebody was coming behind you.  CLOSE THE DOOR!”

Even the baby has taken to bellowing at her sisters: “Dose-duh-doooo!”

But it just isn’t working.  Why is it that children refuse to heed repeated verbal warnings?  Why must they provoke us to real action before they decide that what we’re telling them is really important?

My blood runs thin and I’m afraid of the cold.  I’m a desperate woman driven to desperate measures.  I’m now charging a $.25 fine for each infraction.  As always, if the perpetrator doesn’t have cold hard cash she is given the privilege of working off her debt.  Making my bed, starting a load of laundry, or swatting 5 flies are 3 ways to earn a fast quarter.  If necessary, I can come up with others.

I suspect this will work well over the next several days but today it had an unexpected side effect and I’m not sure how I feel about it.  Those of you who think my plan is too mean will be relieved to know that I’m losing money on the deal.

It works like this:  every time I demand the fine from an offender, she remembers that I actually and legitimately owe her money, so I end up paying out money to the offender.  As of now, I think I’m at least a dollar in the red even though I’ve collected 6 or 7 fines today.  Sigh.  Another great entrepreneurial idea gone awry.