Planning Ahead

Fall is on it’s way, and some of us are more than ready to get started! Today the Schenanigans Family traveled home from our favorite end of summer trip, visiting the Grange Fair in Centre County, Pennsylvania. Surrounded by all that agriculture and knowledge, I was inspired to make the most of my tiny 1/4 acre homestead, less than 5 minutes from the Baltimore City line.

The kid’s favorite part of the Grange Fair

Lucky for me, we passed several Tractor Supply stores on the trek back to the suburbs, and the one closest to us still had chicks in stock. Anyone who raises chickens knows what a long haul raising chicks feels like. At least it is for hens used in egg laying. That dead space between when they are no longer cute and when they lay their first egg seems to stretch on FOREVER!!! It’s in those moments that I promise myself I will take a looooong break before I bust out the heat plate again and drag home another fist full of peeps. But it’s never true. I never do. I raised 7 birds that hatched this February, half for my neighbor (who traded me backyard local honey and crab trap privileges in exchange for some white leghorns), and the rest for myself. He was months late in coming for them, and I vowed not to raise more chicks for another year and a half.

Crab trap!

So here we are on August 21st and I just picked up six Cornish Reds for meat and one Black Australorp for laying. Only one egg layer because my coop was full, but I had one old girl who was no longer laying and just an all around pest, so she needed to be dispatched. I generally don’t process my layer flock. They rarely live long enough to stop laying, and if the kids raised and loved on them they get to stay. But I can’t remember where this girl came from, we didn’t pick her, and neither of the kids cared for her or her attitude.

After we arrived home and finished unpacking the van, I got the chicks settled in their new brooder, set up their food/water/heat, and got started on dispatching one fat chicken. Since she was old, the meat will need a few days to rest in the fridge before stewing. But I always feel so quietly proud of myself and my skills when I am able to produce my own protein to feed my family. Would you believe I learned to butcher by watching Youtube videos? I started out raising quail.

Don’t worry, there was a second, shorter water bowl for them to choose from!

After I finished with the bird, I started looking for more garden space. See, I have two raised garden beds that Captain Schenanigans built for me last Christmas, and I made myself another temporary one out of old firewood in a test spot that might be too shady. But in testing out old seeds (I never buy plants, too expensive and I lose about a quarter in the transferring process) I over dosed on peppers and tomatoes, which I planted in my raised beds for round three of plants this year, and filled those beds up (I also have tomato seedlings in six locations around my property to test new garden spots).

New temporary raised bed in what I suspect is too shady of a location, though my toms and peppers did end up sprouting!

Accidentally forgetting that I had wanted to plant spinach and bibb lettuce in my raised beds this Fall left me looking for new planting space today. I had found some bok choy and red lettuce seeds in the clearance bins at Tractor Supply, so now I needed even more room. I had used up all my garden space in the front yard, but had a bit of a problem with my male dog peeing on everything in the back. My solution? Planting my short cold crops behind already established tall plants, like flowers and shrubs. I found about sidewalk’s width of space in the back of my flower bed, between my flower and the fence! All it needed was some rabbit manure to freshen up the soil and the shavings to hold water. I busted out my Christmas rototiller (I love my husband) and planted to my little heart’s content, then watered like crazy. It was a very accomplished feeling! I dare say one gets that more in gardening than parenting some days…

My “behind the flowers” veggie garden, newly seeded with my future fall salad greens!

By then I was tired. I’d been driving all morning and micro-farming all afternoon, but there were still more chores to do. So I did what any good mom would do. I pulled my kids off screens and threw out directions like parade candy. Of COURSE they grumbled. Of COURSE they whined. So what? No one wants a lazy adult, which means you gotta fight the lazies during childhood. I’m just doing my part to contribute to society. Girlchild cleaned out the chicken coop in record time so she could return her 12yr old self to organizing her dresser (girl after my own heart), but Manchild clucked and fussed like a broody hen during egg collection. I got him to scrub out the chicken water container with baking soda, and get most of the algae out, but not without a fight. My girls use the bottom half of a turtle sandbox to hold their water, and I’ll agree it’s awkward to scrub, but perfectly within range for a 10yr old boy. Ya just gotta put your back into it, Bubba!

After supervising the young’ens and watering all my veggies, I tossed Manchild a grilled cheese sandwich and hit the showers. It felt FANTASTIC to have so much growing on my little property, and I loved the prospect of so much more to come in the next season. I’ll never be able to feed my family entirely off the land, but that’s okay. The more I accomplish the better I feel, and more our family can sustain ourselves by buying less. Like the Proverbs 31 woman in the Bible, I actually enjoy these types of tasks that help shore up our family’s future.

“She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come” Proverbs 3:25

I’m no Biblical icon, but I do look forward to enjoying the fruits of my labor in the coming winter, and that’s a good feeling! 🙂

Snowpants

It’s finally Snow Season in Baltimore. We rarely get much snow in December, despite the start of winter, but do enjoy a few healthy dumpings of powder through out January and February. By March, it had better be over because every one has their eyes set on Spring, and those beautiful flakes and flurries are no longer welcome!

We’ve had snow twice this week, and every kid in town was holding their breath for school closures. The public schools folded early, mercifully calling at least a delay the day before. Their kindness did not go unnoticed by us parents. But the private schools, in valiant efforts to distinguish their superiority, held out ’til the last possible second and forced all the parents to wake up in the dark, check their phones, and try to scramble together a new plan for the day while half asleep (and re-considering why they pay good money to be treated this way). Surely lack of advanced notice shouldn’t cost so much!

But kids reacted to the snow days all the same, regardless of institution. Pure, unadulterated joy. Nine year old Manchild was happy when his private school finally made their decision to open 2 hours late, and tried to cram all the fun of snow, hot chocolate, new sleds, and sleeping in, into those 2 magical hours. Unfairly, his eleven year old public schooled sister was off for the day. But just as the toes of the children started to freeze, after the last run down the hill, and the final poorly flung snowball was lobed half-heartedly, just as the heavy sadness of 9:00am settled in and it was time for breakfast and uniforms, the private school caved and closed for the day! The notification was sent along with virtual assignments and “options” for the parents. As if tortured by the children having any fun or freedom on a day that, by all rights, should have been theirs.

Unfortunately, this work-from-home-nurse was not about to have her job cancelled for snow. So compiling no-warning homeschooling on top of that just seemed cruel. It was one stinkin’ day. Who are they kidding? I wasn’t about to ruin a beautiful day of exercise, freedom, and memories with fighting over nouns, math facts, and vocabulary words. Knowing that there was no way all the other parents in class were going to be available to complete the assignments, the content was likely going to be repeated in class the next day (and really, how boring is it to learn the same thing twice). The assignments turned out to be optional, and I was exercising my option to not stress out my son. There would be plenty of time for that when he grew up. After a year of homeschooling at it’s worst in 2020, there was no need to do academic battle today.

Instead, we embraced the world of snow pants and wet mittens, of missing hats and out grown boots. We tromped in and out of the house, leaving salty puddles in our wake to soak into the socks of the person who followed. Turned out Manchild had outgrown one pair of boots, another pair weren’t water proof, and he accidentally wore Girlchild’s boots to school – where the entire sole crumbled off the right boot yesterday. We were in desperate need of new footwear. While the kids could make due with multiple pairs of socks inside rain boots, that’s ultimately a very cold and slippery way to go sledding.

We quickly learned (upon traipsing all four of us to Target in a rare shopping trip that lassoed Captain Schenanigan into the fray) that there was not one pair of boots left to be bought in-person. We were too late in the season, they were all gone! That was the draw back to snow that falls after Christmas, and not before. All the merchandise was gone, and vendors were already setting out their valentines and candy. They didn’t care that three out of the four of us didn’t have snow boots. This was going to have to be an online roll-of-the-dice solution, as sight unseen footwear generally is.

No matter, I enjoyed seeing the kids create snow forts and shelters in the Narnia woods by our house. Friends came and went, and they settled into a rhythm alternating between snow play and video games, as they warmed up again. At one point, as I cruised past Minecraft heading back to my desk, I noticed Manchild and his buddy clad in identical black snow bibs while gaming on the basement couch. I paid attention, and the two of them continued to wear the snow overalls for hours. In the house and back out again, they never took them off. I smile to myself, and continued the motions of a working mom. Come supper time, the friend had left and Manchild was perched at the table, boots off but still warmly dressed in his snow pants. This is the child who loves to be naked. Who appears on social media a fraction of the time his sister does, because he’s generally not appropriate for public viewing. The kid who eats meals in nothing but his underwear (pick your battles) and has been known to turn down play invitations with friends because it required pants, and he was already in his undies for the evening. He seriously doesn’t feel cold.

“Manchild, why are you still in you snow pants?” I question.

He shrugs and looked up at me casually from his Ranch chicken and potatoes. “It’s just easier to keep wearing them”, he explained.

Then he stood up from the table to proceeded to pull a cache of little boy nerf guns, rifles, and climbing ropes out of the pants. Not the pockets. The pants. Seems Manchild had figured out the brilliance of a built in pouch, and making good use of it. He demonstrated how one could carry a dart pistol and emergency rope inside the bib of the overalls, while having a full rifle hidden down inside one leg (assuming you didn’t like bending your knee too much). What had started as laziness had progressed to usefulness, and now my son was a permanent resident of his snow gear. I couldn’t fault him. Why abandon something that had eased the struggles in your life? This made perfect sense to an eleven year boy. In fact, why aren’t we all wearing snow pants? I bet you could fit a jug of milk in that bib, along with a bag of taters down one pants leg and a sack of onions down the other. Boom! Grocery unloading done in record time.

The perspective of my kids never ceases to amaze me. And while we struggle to form them and shape them to something that fits into the job market, I have to confess, I see the appeal in letting them shape us a little more into something that doesn’t.

Snow days are perfect Book and Blanket days!

Weirdness

These are my children, laying on the lawn of a Mexican restaurant over an hour from home, holding hands and just being weird. IDK why, I’m walking to the car, minding my own.

Is it me, or has 2021 just been straight up weird? First the kids are out of school, 100% virtual for soooooooo long. Then they just barely get back in school for 2 days a week, and the school announces they’ll be back in school for 4 days a week. Now because we’ve now gotten on a roll about making speedy decisions, we’ve already declared next year is going to be 5 days a week. Whaaaat?

 

Girlchild has loved going back to school, even though recess has mostly consisted of just standing in a field. They can’t use the playground, can’t touch each other, or come within six feet of each other. For reasons I may never know, my girl has learned to use this socially distanced time as an opportunity to perfect swinging her 8ft jump rope above her head as fast as she can. Perfect Covid recess activity, what could go wrong here?!

One bonus from this chaos, now that all the lunches are free, my girl is willing to try school lunch for the first time in all six years of her public school education. Annnnd ya wanna know what she found? That by eating school lunch a couple of days a week, she can avoid having to pack her lunch every. Single. Day! A novel thought. One I have spent literally hundreds of evenings considering over the past 6 years as I was sentenced to packing lunches, wishing this kid would just give school lunch a whirl. Nope. Not until she’s good and ready. Not until she’s 8 weeks away from leaving Elementary school forever, would she even taste what they had to offer. Let alone rave about their pizza!

I think we’ve all gotten weirder, too. But maybe that’s just the tweenager stage Girlchild and Manchild have pulled our family in to. I mean, it could be due to the inability to socialize for the past year and a half without rules, masks, precautions, and alcohol based products. But I really don’t think that’s it. I think it’s just good old fashioned genetics hard at work here.

Case in point, the other day Girlchild managed to injure her fingers playing dodgeball with her Dad. Now, Captain Schenanigans is not known for going easy on the children when it comes to games, neither of us are the coddling sort actually, but her version of the story is that she was violently thrown to the ground and broke all her fingers. The truth of the matter is probably something a little more along the lines of her tripping over a tree root and spraining her fingers, but either way they hurt. Being the gentle nurse of a mother I am, I explained that they weren’t broken, chucked 2 ibuprofen down her throat, and shoved her out the door. A week later she was still bemoaning her pitiful fingers (which amazingly worked just fine when it came to playing Minecraft or eating dinner), though admitted they hurt a bit less. As she was getting ready for bed I hear her scream as only a dramatic 11yr old girl can do. I mosey in her general direction and hear her exclaiming to her father that she accidentally walked on her hurt fingers! Now being the gentle nurse of a mother that I am, I actually do know quite a bit about anatomy, and I see a questionable challenge here. How exactly does getting ready for bed lead you to accidentally walk on your hands? And in what Jane Goodall formation were you getting your pajamas on so that this even became a possibility? Mother of monkeys, I had no answers for this little ape.

Now lest you think that Girlchild was a bit addled in the brain, she’s actually quite smart! She’s been enrolled in all Gifted and Talented classes for next year. Which is why situations like this next one always leave me a bit more perplexed. Girlchild and I were riding in the car on our way home, when she heard a noise from above.

Girlchild: Mom, there’s an airplane pulling a sign!

Me: Ok (this in not uncommon on Preakness week-end, being so close to Pimlico, and several beaches)

Girlchild: But I didn’t get to read what it said!

Me: That’s fine. It was probably just an ad for something.

Girlchild: But what if it’s important?!

Me: It’s not.

Girlchild (dead serious): But what if we’re BEING INVADED OR SOMETHING!

Me: Um… that’s not actually how the government communicates with us… (?????)

May need to write someone a letter about the social studies curriculum in Baltimore County, perhaps a tad bit lacking in the poly sci.

But back to the other weird things, raise your hand if you know where you are and aren’t supposed to wear a mask. What? No one? Yeah, same here. I know where we are allowed to not wear masks, I know where I have seen mask signs come down, and I know of one store that took down their external mask sign, then moved it 10 feet inside the door and left it up again. Super confusing, thanks Savers. I mean, it feels great to use gym equipment at the YMCA without feeling like you were going to suffocate, and I’m glad the vaccination levels are increasing (gentle nurse, remember), but I gotta say we’re all finding this shifting middle ground just awkward and…weird.

Don’t get me started on the cicadas. I don’t know if you all have them, wherever you are, my friend in CO says she does not, but we got ’em. By the buckets full in Maryland! Manchild (also weird), has named all the live ones “Johnny” and all the hollow shells “Bob”. Now I remember having them around as a kid in elementary school, and they never really bothered me. I was kinda fascinated by the science of them, and they’re harmless over all. Now as an adult, my biggest complaint is stepping on the Johnny’s while I am barefoot. Blech! I’m always curious where they seem to congregate. I’ve started leaving my porch lights off to decrease the masses that drag themselves up on my door step over night, but it only helps a little. Of course my tidy neighbors never seem to have any. It’s like they are attracted to chaos, and flock to my house! I dropped a shovel full of ’em into the chicken pen and all my hens scattered and hid. Chicken.

But over all, weird isn’t bad. It’s just memorable. We are by no means living in the weirdest times in history. Just open a Bible and read through some of the plagues, or Jesus’ miracles. Now that guy was weird- in a very, very good way. I’m not against weird. It just makes for some interesting memories… and a lot of over sharing on Facebook! 🙂

What else is weird? Why does WordPress keep changing my font sizes and hiding the option to change them back? They are SO weird (and frustrating)!!!

Spring

It is full force Spring in Schenanigansland, and I for one am loving it! My sinuses, not so much, but the more drugs the merrier if it keeps me digging in the dirt. Last year for Mother’s Day I bought myself 100 tulip bulbs online (they were my wedding flower). They came in the mail just before Fall, and I planted them right away. I had been looking forward to seeing them bloom all winter, and I was not disappointed. I adore natural beauty, and for once certain portions of my yard were simply gorgeous! Now, the rest of it was still strewn with toys, swords, light sabers and a half dozen abandon forts, but my flower beds were fantastic.

But even the tulips weren’t my favorite part of Spring. Nope, my favorite part of Spring is all the new babies, in particular the baby chickens! Each year I try to wrangle some spare space in my chicken coop to accommodate a few more fluffy booties. It’s good to have a multi-generational flock so that as older hens stop laying younger ones are just beginning and will pick up the slack on production. I, for one love, nothing more then buying new chicks. Back before Covid, I would spend hours pouring over various hatchery websites. Comparing birds, prices, shipping costs, and seeing how many of my friends are interested in ordering with me to split those shipping costs. I’d order long before those eggs were hatched, eagerly awaiting the ship date and the call from post office. The postal workers always seemed to take forever finding my box in the back, then walking it up to the counter. Each year my breath would catch as I saw the box and strained to hear the cheeping inside. Each year I worried I’d get a box with no cheeping, it’d gotten too cold, or too hot, or took too long to get here. But thankfully, each year so far the chicks have been nothing short of a ruckus in the post office, just the way they ought to be.

Covid has changed a lot of things, and ordering my chicks was one of them. I didn’t trust the postal service this year. I just knew this would be the year of the silent box. There were too many variables: sick employees, shortages of workers, delayed mail, for me to risk an entire order of peeps. Instead, I organized Chick Day with my neighbors. I’ve managed to spread my joy of chickens to a few other ladies in the neighborhood, and we decided to all go to Tractor Supply and a local pet shop together early one Saturday morning. We bonded over selecting just the right birds and purchasing our future flocks. A tradition had been born!

But also in Spring time comes…FAMILY DODGE BALL TIME!!! The season in which the Schenanigans family can be found on the front lawn after dinner, using our children as meat shields and making a full contact sport out of a rubber dinosaur ball bought at the grocery store. The kids love it! The neighbors wave as they walk their nice, normal dogs, out on quiet evening strolls. Not one other family can be seen playing Family Dodge Ball in our neighborhood. Truthfully, probably in the County. But that’s entirely their loss. The fact that we live at the top of a hill with no sidewalks, and a crumbling asphalt street only adds a special flavor to the game.

Truth be told, I certainly hope my kids file these days away in their memories to last a lifetime. I know I’m out of shape, and we look like lunatics out there bopping around on the front lawn, flaring up my bursitis. But we laugh so hard, and the time goes by so fast with these little ones. I try to savor each day. Working full time has stolen a lot of my time and energy, bumping up against moments with my kids. But I take what I can and hope for the best. And right now our kids think hurling a dinosaur ball at them as hard as we can is the best that there is!














































































































































































Bunny Buns

I’ve got 5 angry red claw marks running down my shoulder. I’d forgotten about them til water hit ’em, but they are the raised, welty kind that sting and aren’t going away anytime soon. I suppose they were to be expected, considering I’d spent my free time today blow drying the business end of one surprisingly soggy rabbit with my hair dryer. Manchild’s white rabbit, Hops, has been having a bit of a personal problem with her back door grooming, and it has resulted in some clumping of debris. I’d been cutting it off all year, but since I scraped her tail skin with my scissors yesterday I informed Manchild today that she needs a good soaking. Thankfully, this rabbit has had several Fairs under her belt and is quite familiar with the sink. So long as we keep the water low and specific to the back end, she tolerates us and doesn’t up and die (some do).

Seeing as how I am now full time employed, the task of supervising the rabbit washing fell to my husband. Both Schenanigans men did a great job! But outdoor rabbits take forever to dry, and after sitting in the foyer all day on her wet bits, I knew this was getting us no where. Moments later I was standing in the bathroom, watching clumps of rabbit hair stick to my shirt and smelling the tantalizing odor of warmed wet bunny butt, while contemplating my life choices. I certainly did not miss getting this white rabbit ready for the Fair in 2020, and since Manchild is a 4-H drop out (he found his people among the Cub Scouts), this should be my last time blow-drying this rabbit. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise!

This was the informational hand out for the 2019 Baltimore County 4-H Fair, complete with Manchild and his bird.

Being that it is February in Maryland, and the weather is somewhere in the 30’s, I made sure Hops was good and dry before a quick trim of her nails and then sending her back out to her hutch with Manchild. Manchild is actually a rabbitlord. He rents Hops to his sister. What does she pay? She has to feed and water the rabbit daily. What does she gain? Unlimited access to Hops whenever she wants to show her to friends or visitors (Girlchild has two HUGE rabbits that are harder for little kids to carry). It’s kind of a brilliant arrangement, since Girlchild has to be outside every morning to feed her own rabbits, and Manchild sucked at daily bunny care. Everyone wins here, especially Hops (who likes to eat daily).

Girlchild a few years back with one of her fat bucks! Pro Tip: Chunky rabbits are easier to catch (the meat breeds)!

However, this week Girlchild is on vacation. I don’t know if she got tired of us, the scenery inside these walls, or a combo platter of the two, but she arranged a 3 day getaway at my mom’s house and took her school tablet with her. She’s living the only child dream life at her grandparents, and periodically calling to tell us the last meal she ate, or what they baked, or how late she stayed up. The girl looks totally happy on our calls, and I’m a little jealous I didn’t think of it first!

But someone has to keep the home fires from burning stuff, and with Captain Schenanigans going out of state for work this week and next, and my new job keeping me hopping convincing patients I am not a telemarketer, it’s hardly vacation season over here. I’m glad Girlchild had a chance to miss us and regroup with her introverted little self. Everyone deserves a little spoiling now and then, and virtual school is the perfect time to do it! Manchild wouldn’t leave my side if you pried him with a pointy stick (thank you very much Covid), so at least one kid is taking advantage of the situation!

Did I mention she’s coming home with CUPCAKES?! A definite bonus to vacationing with Grandma. You don’t get that kind of service with AirBnB! I know she misses me, but that’s good for her. Everyone should get a chance to be homesick once in a while. Helps you grow and gain some perspective, dare I suggest appreciate the mama God gave you. Also helps that mama ease into the idea of a little more space in between. An idea she’s not too keen on, either. But for now, baby steps towards adulthood are big enough for us. I’m looking forward to welcoming my girl (and her cupcakes) back home again and into our fold. While she may grow big and leave one day (or even return to a classroom everyday), today is not that day. While we all resisted that first month, I gotta say, I kinda like my Covid lifestyle. And rotating personal vacations is not the worst idea I’ve ever heard… 🙂

Check out my new desk chair! You can’t see much, but rest assured it’s a beauty!

New Year, New Life, New Drama

So I’m officially a full time employee again, for the first time in ten years! It’s a remote gig, so I get to work from home in my own little basement office (which I happily share with the camping gear, holidays decorations, and one efficient little sump pump). It’s a bit low on light, and the cat periodically comes in to hunt for mice in the storage space behind me, but it’s better than the card table beside my bed that I had been using, so I’ll take it!

I was super excited about my $4 thrift store find of a Grandmother clock! It chimes on the hour and keeps time beautifully. SO FUN! Unfortunately, when you orient to a new job during Covid, you do a crap ton of Zoom calls. Fun fact, Zoom calls and Grandmother clocks (let’s throw in sump pumps while we’re at it) do not mix well at all! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to lunge for my mic button in the midst of a conversation at the top of the hour, or on a particularly rainy day. The chimes are clearly audible through the mic (I’ve asked) and while I did post this pic on Facebook, NOT.ONE.PERSON. pointed out the error of my ways. C’mon hive mind, you’re letting me down!

But life is all about adjustments, and this season is no different. I can not tell you how many times I have opened my door to find both kids and the family dog lined up outside my office, each with a laundry list of needs, complaints, and general grievances. As if their father were not completely available upstairs. As if all problems were somehow assigned to the mother of the household, dontcha know?

But the line up was short lived, at least for Grover dog, who quickly found out that the door knob to my office was installed backwards by the previous owner. This means that one swift shove by nose or by paw, and that door swings open wide with no regard for who’s doing what on the other side. This is how one black and white house cow crashed my one-on-one meeting with the CEO of our company! Yeah, good times. He just wanted to be closer to mom… and maybe my portable radiator.

Like my work slippers? Remote work perks!

As per our usual method of operation, we pulled this office together with limited cash output. We had the table, Native table cover, and radiator already. I bought a small second hand table lamp for $3 at Savers, some dollar store cactus decorations, and snagged a used office chair my neighbor was giving away. My kids made me art, and the small silver framed picture of my Beloved is a favor from our wedding thirteen years ago!

Things have been chugging right along, I’m over the hardest part of orientation and am closing in on becoming independent in my work load. This is a pretty crucial part of the nurse case management learning curve. I was starting to get my footing with this position, and feeling a pretty good about it all.

Manchild came down to visit me this week while Captain Schenanigans was virtually meeting with the school board about home schooling. I welcomed him to my corner of the house, then tilted back on my hand-me-down desk chair and thought again that despite having no arm rests, I was thankful it reclined. Actually, it does not. In the blink of an eye I was bottoms over tea kettle due to my broken chair deciding it was finished providing services. As I fell over backwards, my son’s eyes went HUGE and my foot kicked over the radiator. Manchild jumped back, fairly certain the entire house was now going to engulf in flames and we’d end up living in the barn. Thankfully, kerosene heaters are merely a childhood memory of my grandmother’s house to me, and this very safe radiator only needed to be set up right and we were back in business. So long as I liked standing.

That red part should not be visible. There’s a reason it’s red. That’s the emergency ejection button, post ejection!

Since the day I started this new job, by the time my work day ends I am mind numbingly blasted. Add to that the fact that it’s cold outside. It’s usually dark. I am generally hangry after work, and I’m not interested in going anywhere when the day ends! This makes obtaining a new desk chair (and finding energy to blog), kinda difficult. But you know who does have a sporadically used, super lovely, comfy desk chair? Captain Schenanigans, Manchild’s full time homeschool teacher! Now Captain has launched his own AV company, CMD Technology, for which he does use his office. But not during daylight hours what with his child education side hustle. SOooooo… now we have joint custody of the chair. Today is my day with the chair, and I am happily enjoying every bit of these arm rests and squishy seating. It’s like a throne for professionals. I feel like such a grown up!

In my defense, I did check one store in person for a chair, of which they had one sad little armless model that was cheaply made and had no lumbar support, sitting alone in a box on the shelf. No, thanks. I hesitate to order online without testing a chair (not to mention it would take 6 months to get here with our sloth-speed mail service these days), but am starting to see no alternatives. Second hand office chairs are usually mostly broken, and I need something for the long haul. This is just one more thing on the long growing list of stuff that will have to get done “sometime” since I’ve started working full time. Committing to 40 hours a week away from your life really does take a chunk out of your “getting stuff done” time. I’m still not quite sure how the rest of the world does it!

As for the remainder of my chair, well, we’re not exactly fill-up-the-landfill kinda people, and believed there was still more to be done with the parts. And by we, I mean Manchild. Once he spied that broken seat he called dibs and launched into orbit by sitting in it with his knees in the air and his back on the floor, full on astronaut style. Manchild was instantly the pilot of his very own space ship of one. Later in the day I found him using it as a gaming chair while doing spelling games on the tablet. This morning there were fights as Girlchild wanted a turn in the broken chair, and Manchild was not sharing. Seriously, fighting like junkyard dogs over broken furniture, this is what we’ve come to? Apparently, yes. So Commander Girlchild got a wooden folding chair, laid it on it’s back on the ground, and commanded her own spaceship. Because she could. Because she’s Girlchild.

I did try to throw out the remainder of the stand and wheel base of the chair, but again was met with resistance from Manchild. To his credit, those wheels could easily repurpose into some sort of S.T.E.M project of homeschooling merit. In reality, we live at the top of a very steep hill with a boy with a very high pain tolerance. I gently suggested he house it in the garage (rather than my living room) for the time being, and will let his father handle the situation when it re-arises. What? I can’t handle everything? I have work to do, you know!

Paging Doctor Breakfast

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I find it very hard to believe that the same God who created dogs, then turned around and made cats. I see no evidence of similar character traits between the two. Generally, one can see the figurative fingerprints of a creator or author among all their works of art. But not here. Both species have 4 legs, fur, and generally a tail. That’s as far as they get, according to me.

Take for instance Grover dog. Our gentle, patient, and loyal House Cow. He’s dependable, comforting, therapeutic, and an excellent playmate. 🙂

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This good boy smiles in his sleep.

Compared to Jax, our tabby Barn Cat, who managed to weasel his way into the house every evening and for large portions of the day. He sleeps where he’s not supposed to (like on the pillow I removed from my bed DAILY to avoid headaches), gives you his belly during head scratching but bites you if you pet it, and STILL demands his breakfast at 5am despite the schedule change NINE MONTHS AGO!

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THIS is the pillow I remove from the bed so he won’t lay on it during the day and I can stop waking up with headaches!

At first it was gentle nudges and little mews, reminding us to get up and feed him before work/exercise, despite the whole world shutting down in March. No, he would not be content to wait another two hours for a more reasonable time for his meal. ‘Cause he’s a cat. He then started nipping fingers that dangled over the human bed, and knowingly raking his claws down the sides of the ONLY NEW CHAIR in the whole entire house! Everything else came second hand, claw it all you want. But no, this yellow terrorist singles out my new cloth desk chair, conveniently located next to the bed, and attempts to shred it like cheddar until you can no longer take the sound of your one nice thing being destroyed. I tried covering it with a blanket, but clever the clever jerk would stick his demon paws up under the blanket and stretch waaaay high to get that extra good ripping sound! Only at 5am. Never after breakfast, never any other time of the day. Just. 5. AM!

As the weather warmed for the summer we began locking Jax out over night. When someone is unemployed, it’s a little rough to have a cat reminding them every morning that they have nothing to get up for. Thanks a heap, feline. I see why you were a rescue. But even from the porch, Jax ruled the morning routine with an iron paw. While we humans could no longer hear him, Grover the black and white dummy could, and he would wake us up each morning to lead us to the back door to let the cat in. Yes, the cat was using the dog to do his bidding. Stupid loyal canine! I love him, but he’s an idiot.

So when Jax started using Grover as his pawn to wake us up, we began making him a better offer. If Grover could stay quiet and calm about the cat crying on the back deck (who, BTW, is a phenomenal hunter and obviously not starving), we’d let him into the comfy human bed and he could sleep-in with the people like a good dog. It worked. For a while.

Then the weather got cold and our barn cat got crafty. He began slipping in while we let the dog our for the final drain of the night. Now he was back in the house and it was too cold to kick him out. We moved the new chair out of our bedroom and now when he cried in the wee hours of the morning, we ignored him. Some days we’d get up and shut him out of the bedroom, but then we have to shut all the kid’s doors, too, or he would go wake one of them up! He plays dirty.

However this week… this week our rescued problem child has kicked his breakfast demands up to a new precedent of annoying. He has located the table in our room where intercom system is for speaking with someone in the basement, and presses on the Page button. This makes an ear piercing ring blasting all humans from their sleep! Yesterday, THREE TIMES between 5am and 6am the cat had literally paged us to feed him breakfast. I have never hated a cat so much as that moment! SERIOUSLY?! No other time of day. Just before breakfast.

In a pre-emptive strike, last night we closed the door to the kid’s rooms, closed the door to our room, and went to bed cat free. We were gonna be winners! Except our House Cow had fallen asleep on the sofa and wasn’t ready for his nightly migration to the bedroom doggie bed until about 3am. At which time he began pawing the closed door every three minutes for an hour until one of us let him in. He’d clearly been trained by the cat.

Had I not been the kind of person who commits to keeping whatever animal I bring home for a lifetime, I may be having a few second thoughts about pet ownership right about now. However, that was never an option. They are mine for good, for better or worse. Kinda like marriage. Except married people know better than to wake their spouse up at 5am demanding breakfast. At least, the ones who stay married do!

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If it weren’t for these few moments of weekly lap sitting (ONLY if I have a fleece blanket on my lap, and only in winter), this cat would be bringing precious little to the table at this point! Also, please ignore my kid’s fort in the left corner, we’ve been home since March and all creative play is welcome here!

Bag of Ham

Today on the way to work, I dropped my 8yr old son off at his grandparents with no more than a math book and a lunch box carrying a bag of ham! BAG. OF. HAM. That’s what he wanted to eat for his noon meal. Nothing else. Now, to be fair, there were actually two bags of ham in that lunch box. One for Manchild, and one for his grandparents (I mean, it was a 10lb ham, and sharing it now counts as Social Studies, right? #HomeschoolRules). I had no doubt Grandma would probably help him round out his lunch with a few healthier sides, but in the hustle of the morning, a bag of ham worked for us!

I remembered when my kids were little. We were told things like: hold off on starting solid foods until they’re 6 months old, start with yellow and orange vegetables they have the least allergens, stop the bottle at one year old and switch to a sippy cup, and above all else no sugary drinks! We followed ALL that stuff. We obeyed the rules, we read the literature, and weighed the pros and cons on everything.

As the kids grew, we relaxed. We had an amazing public school, we always had a parent home to greet them off the bus, we ate home cooked family dinners together every night. We were raising tiny humans the best way we knew how. With lots of love, a firm Jesus following foundation, and just enough independence to let them explore a taste of freedom. It was good. They were good!

Then 2020 hit, and things got real bad, real quick. I remember prepping our rental house to sell just before Covid was on our radar. With time and money running out, and the stress of pulling up miles of carpet (all those stinking staples and nails), painting with complaining kids in tow, and beating the clock before the mortgage was due again life felt AWFUL. I clearly recall our relief at closing that now the hard chapter was closed, and we could breathe a sigh of relief! Ha. That was January 2020.

But now that gentle sigh of relief seems to be coming around again. While Covid is ramping up, and our financial situation remains questionable, we aren’t afraid. Our schools never opened, so there is no fear of them closing again. Our kids each enjoy their virtual or home school set up, and we know what quarantining looks like. I’ve lived through having Covid, gotten a better handle on the work from home thing, and have learned how to handle being an introvert who is never alone. We see God’s fingerprints all over our lives, and know we are being held tight. Hope has floated back up to the top again, and we are joyful.

As the days are getting darker much earlier in the evenings now, we’ve begun to string Christmas lights around our living room. The lights bring me so much happiness as they add warmth to the darkness, and like many others this year, I can not wait for the holiday season to begin! Yes, it will all be odd or different. But so what? Tradition can be good, but tradition can also be immobilizing. Let’s spice it up a little and try something new this year? I’m ready for an adventure. I don’t want the same menu and schedule as last year (as if that were even an option anymore). If the perfect square meal were laid out, I’d opt for the bag of ham in a second!

I have friends who have already put their Christmas tree up. Last week, actually. Why not? Half the excitement about celebrating Jesus’ birthday is the anticipation of looking forward to the celebration. You can start that when ever you want to! Girlchild is ready now. Captain Schenanigans still needs a little more time. Lights he can embrace (if it means a happy wife), but the tree before Thanksgiving is more than he can wrap his head around, and that’s OK. But that’s not true for everyone. Go ahead and put yours up early, walk on the wild side one year, see what happens?!

There’s only another 8 weeks left in 2020, and while the whole world seemed to bottom out in the middle of the year, I think we can finish strong. Different. But strong. Because we are being held by a God who is stronger, and change, while often painful, can also be an adventure.

#GoGrabYourBagofHam

Think Christmas lights and Thanksgiving garland can’t mix? Think again, the room came out amazing!

Don’t Read While Eating: This One’s Gross

I’ve always considered parenting to be a complex mix of a lot of help from God and a generous dose of Stockholm Syndrome (where hostages form a bond with their captors). This weekend did northing to alter that mindset. This weekend was “Girls Weekend” in Schenaniganland. Captain Schenanigan and Manchild were off to a Cub Scout camp out (only about 15 minutes away I learned after camping ended). Leaving Girlchild and myself looking forward to a quiet, easy, weekend that included eating Chinese food, watching movies, going to Tractor Supply, and eating Chickfila. Not that complicated, which is my favorite way to do things!

We’d originally invited one of Girlchlld’s friends and her mother to come have Chinese with us, and then the friend would spend the night. That would give me a night to sit upstairs and read in bed alone while the two chatterboxes entertained themselves doing tweenage type things in the basement. But on Thursday I learned the camping trip was only one night, starting Saturday at noon.

Re-adjusting my expectations of alone time, we planned a full evening with friends, and figured out how to allow Manchild to play with the girls a portion of the night, then sequester him away with Daddy playing Mario Cart for the rest of the evening to give the girls their privacy. It totally worked, and having Captain around for dinner allowed the grown-ups to talk through our pending kitchen renovation- something our friend had just completed in her own home.

So bedtime rolls around and the girls are all chattypants down in the basement, I can hear them until about midnight. Anytime another child sleeps in my house, I sleep even lighter than usual. Because I never know how comfortable how they are coming to get me if they feel scared, lonely, or sick. It’s awkward to walk into your friend’s parent’s bedroom if you need something during the night. So I always sleep prepared to launch out of bed if I hear trepedous little feet coming down the hall. It’s not a particularly restful, but my goal is to avoid tears and create fun for my daughter, not wake refreshed. Therefore, I hear every move everyone else in the house is making, waking several times a night, thanks to the cat and dog.

Sometime during the night a figure creeps into my room and I wake up immediately. It was Girlchld, climbing across me on her way into my bed, telling me she’s scared. I question her about leaving her friend alone in the basement only to learn that this was NOT in fact Girlchild, but rather Manchild instead. Apparently in my daze in the dark, I can neither tell the height or voice of my children apart. I make room.

At precisely 4:50am Girlchild yells up the stairs to ask if they could feed the dog and cat and start their day. Whaaat?!? This is the same kid I have to dragggggg from her slumber at 8:30am on school days, after I start waking her at 7:30! The answer was an overwhelming no from her father, followed by a strongly encouraging message urging them both to go back to sleep. Thankfully, they complied. Manchild rose before the whole house and fed the relentlessly persistent cat and dog, then set in on video games. I roused in time to tend to the neighbor’s dog alone (which Girlchild and I are both sitting together) and start work by 8am. If I have to work 5 hours on Saturdays, at least I can do it from home, praise God!

So I answered phone calls from the public and the children fought over who was blowing who up on Minecraft. The Dynamic Cub Scout Duo had loaded the car the day before and were anxiously killing time until 12:45pm. When you are up at 7am, that is a lot of hours to waste before getting to do what you are looking forward to. Especially when you are an eager eight year old boy.

After the morning drug by, the menfolk departed and I forced the girls outside. They both looked a little rough for riding the old couch all night, but that’s just kinda the effect sleepovers have. No one expects their beauty sleep on a worn out sectional with a large mutt, who insisted on spending half his night sleeping beside one girl, then switching over mid-way and spending the rest of his slumber with the other. They loved it!

After I got off work at 1pm we made a trip to Tractor Supply to pick up a belt I had ordered Girlchild for Christmas. I had no idea how I was going to pick it up with Girlchild in tow during one of our usual treks, when my friend advised me to take both girls together so Girlchild could be distracted by her sleepover buddy. Sleepover buddy was informed of the plan, and played her part flawlessly. I picked up the belt, checked out alone, and Girlchild was none the wiser.

Fast forward past dropping of Girlchild’s friend and heading back to the house, now it’s time to pick up Chickfila. I foolishly thought the Chickfila line would be shorter for a later dinner than an earlier one. I was so, so wrong. We got in line at 6:15p. The line wound past the parking lot and back through an intersection with a set of stop signs, backing up traffic in two directions. It was bad. Though we love the food, this is why we don’t eat much Chikfila in our area.

We got our food at 7pm. Yes, FORTY-FINE minutes in the Chickfila drive through, and Girlchild’s order was wrong. I understand how the employee misunderstood what I said, reviewing the conversation with Girlchild. But either way she ended up with 4 nuggets instead of 4 strips, which is a big deal for a 10yr old girl. SO, we were told to park in a spot and wait, which we did. And she ended up with a free brownie, so Girlchild was thrilled.

After leaving Chickfila, we headed home and set up shop in the basement. Our tradition on these Cub Scout camping weekends is to watch Thirteen Going on Thirty while we ate. Tradition, because this is the second time we’ve done it, naturally. Things were cruising along smoothly until Girlchild got up and went to the bathroom. Along the way she found that nature had called for Grover-dog as well, but in our absence he opted for the hallway. And evidently he was sick.

We gathered up the soiled, stinking carpet and attempt to flop the pile of goo into the toilet. It didn’t work. In major, major ways, did it fail! In various places.

Now Girls Night has turned into a janitorial festival with Girlchild using Lysol and paper towels while I am using Odoban and the hose on the front porch with the contaminated carpet draped across a rocking chair. The night had certainly taken a turn from our original plans!

Leaving the soggy carpet on the front porch I joined Girlchild and clean the bathroom for a second time in 24hrs. The stench was overwhelming, and I used some of the gardenia body spray I handed down to Girlchild just to make it tolerable to breathe. Girlchild was determined to finish her movie as scheduled, so we soldiered on with our estrogen fest and ignored to staggering aroma of mutt gut.

After the movie we headed upstairs and got ready for bed. One of the perks of Daddy being a way as that Girlchild got to bunk with me in the big bed. Grover invited himself to join us, having been forgiven for his illness, and climbed up into the middle of the bed. Then halfway through the night, he threw up in the blankets and got himself uninvited. Then retches again in the hallway during the walk of shame to the backdoor.

Girlchild is sleepy and bleary eyed, only vaguely aware of the situation. So I kept the lights low and did the clean up in the dark, marking this as officially the worst Slumber party I had EVER attended! Then I stepped in another wet spot, and wanted I want to quit adulting.

The next morning I rise early to walk the neighbor’s dog. It’s one street over so I lightly attempt to wake Girlchild, then leave a note on my pillow explaining my whereabouts. I figured she’d still be asleep when I got back. I was wrong.

I was still trying to catch the neighbor’s shy pupper in their living room when Girlchild called me sobbing over being abandoned. Obviously the note had not been found, and she woke up hysterical. Upon hearing of my current situation, she offered to bring Grover down as emotional reinforcement for the scared pup. It worked, thank goodness.

By the time we were done watching church on the couch at home, it was only 10:30am, but felt much later. After two nights of interruptions and hours of sleep deficit, I was on autopilot.

Then the menfolk returned. They were chatty but dragging after a cold night in a tent. Girlchild filled them in on all the fun they had missed here, and wouldn’t you know it, that’s truly all she saw. The good times. The dog vomit, broken sleep, diarrhea team clean-up, parental abandonment, basement stench, and 40hrs in the Chickfila line for a messed up order all fell off the scales as she weighed in on the highlights of her weekend.

She saw the weekend that she wanted to have, and I was happy for her. Something about growing up makes you see more bad than good, but I pray that we all look for the good more often. Because it’s all there if we wanna see it, if we’d just lift our eyes.

2020

2020 has just been a Walk Your Chicken on a Harness kind of year.

Somehow, in the midst of the chaos, I’ve skipped my September post. I know why. I generally only post about happy, funny stories in my life, and in this season, there just haven’t been many of those if we’re being honest. My husband was laid off due to Covid in July, and I have more than doubled my work hours- including Saturdays (something I thought I left back on the Reservation during my floor nurse days in the Navajo hospital). So while I don’t have any hilarious antidotes to entertain you with, I do have some rather grateful ways in which God clearly showed up for us.

For starters, I am quite thankful that I was able to pick up needed hours at work so readily. While Covid-19 was the reason my husband lost his job, it was also the reason the Health Dept was crying for people to help test the public for Covid, and answer the Covid Hotline. I was able to salvage our income by doing both, rather quickly.

Also, we got a chance to test drive homeschooling. It’s something I’ve had lots of other friends do and encourage me to try. I admit I was curious, although we all know I don’t have the patience for it. But since my husband was home launching his new business, he was readily available to teach Manchild (Girlchild opted to do virtual school through her public school) in all his ADHD glory. It’s been great for Manchild, who is loving this type of learning. Unfortunately, Captain Schenanigans does not have the personality to continue his teaching career, as he needs people like the rest of us need oxygen. Once public schools in Baltimore County opens up, you can bet both Schenaniganlets will be back on that big yellow bus and the Captain will be conversing with grown-ups again full time!

“Virtual First day of 5th Grade” her sign says. Please note her excitement (but God showed up for her, too)!

I finally get to work from home. While I have always thought my cubicle based nursing job could easily be done by home, the Health Dept is nothing if not resistant to change. But there’s nothing like an old fashioned pandemic to grease the wheels of change, and get everyone scampering home to hole up. There’s been no word on opening up again, and that works for me. While I still have been going into the office weekly to close charts, not having to report on time has been lovely.

We’ve also gotten to save some funds, which is always nice. We trimmed the fat in our budget to the point that we were actually squirreling some income away. Won’t last forever, I know, some expenses can only be put off for so long.

There is freedom for this year’s holidays to look like anything we want! Since no one has a clue what November brings, we don’t feel obligated to do whatever we did last year, or the year before, for Thanksgiving. This year, we are visiting family (we already had Covid, and are banking on a few months of immunity) in their new home that we have never seen in Michigan. We’ve never had Thanksgiving with Captain’s sister before, everyone had their obligations, but this year? It’s pure chaos, so why not!

THIS is the sister in law I finally get to have Thanksgiving with for the first time!

We’re all sleeping in. While we slowly all became nocturnal last spring when school closed, and then slipped into summer, we’ve had to up our game with the start of school. But without lunches to pack, library books to locate, shoes to un-knot, homework to finish, permission slips to sign, and lunches to pack, we’ve got nuthin’ but time on our hands in the mornings! We’re waking up much later, and find ourselves ready to start the school day before the school is ready for us. It’s crazy. Girlchild is totally digging this virtual school thing, since she gets to eat lunch at home and snuggle with her dog any time she wants. This Friday, she never made it out of her pajamas! Just didn’t turn her camera on. While she was dreading this year big time, she has found it to be much better than she expected. Praise Jesus! No one wants a grumpy 5th grader complaining all semester. Also, since we were getting up later, I let Girlchild enter her first barrel race competition in another county, that was a LATE night home. Twice. She was in 10yr old girl heaven!

The pets are happier. No kidding! While I work from my bedroom, both the dog and the cat push their way into the room on a routine basis, and we all take our seats for the work day. Every. Time. They love not being alone all day (and having a quiet space away from the ruckus of my children). We have probably walked the dog more in 2020 than in the other 2 years of his life combined. Lunch break exercise is now the norm.

Let’s not forget that 2020 has been the year of home improvements, across the country! Before the lay off we managed to replace our old wooden deck and separate stairs with Trex decking, created a beautiful little frog pond from an old dog pool, added a new flower bed or two, and several fruit trees/shrubs to our front yard. My flower beds have never been so full, and my garden so big, as this year when I had nothing but time (well, until July). I’ve drug home more kinds of flowers than I can count, and this year when I had a million False Dragonheads blooming wildly in Raven’s purple, I had to admit I was surprised at how they. “Uh, you kinda went into a frenzy”, Captain Schenanigans explained to me. Oh well, you can never have too many flowers I say, and next year I can take it easy.

Can you see my frog on the rock? Manchild named him Cupid.

And let is not forget the copious amounts of family togetherness times we’ve had this year. Lots and LOTS of family togetherness. While there were plenty of times this introvert longed to just be alone for 10 MINUTES, I do realize the gift I am being given here. We will never have this much time to just be together at home ever again. I’ll take it!

Happy, happy Girlchild

This isn’t all of the blessings we’ve received in 2020, and it’s been a brutal summer for sure, but these are a handful of the times I’ve noticed the blessings in the difficulties. I feel closer to Jesus now more than at any other time in my life, and that alone makes it all worth it!