• showtime!

    It’s May 31. Tomorrow night, June 1, the play opens.

    my “nephew” and “niece”

    What a whirlwind month it’s been!

    time warp! 

    I have learned so incredibly much that I still have trouble finding the words to describe it all. One thing I do know: the green room (ours, at least) is actually green. I was clearly not paying attention when I told you it wasn’t green.

    green, green, green

    Tonight is an “invited dress.” (Ooo, look at me do the theater lingo!) This means that the show’s sponsors get bunches of tickets to hand out to their friends and family and then they all get together in one of the studio rooms for a private reception before watching the show. The director said it could be a full house. I’m ready to start performing for someone other than the directors, managers, and crew.  (Is it bad luck to admit that I think we’re ready? I hope I didn’t just jinx the play.)

    Last night we added make-up to our get-ready routine. (We had already added hair—which keeps getting tweaked—and clothing.) I get to have eyebrows! (I’m much less excited about flaunting my super-high forehead to the masses.)

    I tried to sleep in this morning (my parents have the younger two children, which has been A Saving Grace, so it was actually feasible), but the neighbor decided to bang in some fence posts at 7:15. I don’t think he was aware that he was pounding them straight through my head.

    After lunch, I tried again to get some sleep. I had just drifted off when the neighbor decided a few more fence posts were in order, youhavegottobekiddingme. I abandoned the sleep idea and turned to chocolate, caffeine, and Ibuprofen, instead.

    Though it just occurred to me, I’m in bed for much of the second act. Maybe I’ll doze off between nightmares. (Yeah, right.)

    PS. Blood and burn pix coming soon!

    PPS. For showtimes and ticket information, click the picture on the sidebar.

    This same time, years previous: down to the river to chill, barbecued pork ribs, fresh strawberry cream pie

  • the quotidian (5.28.12)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace 

    The kids constantly fight over who gets to hold her. And then when she falls asleep they cry because they can’t hold her anymore…except for the one who put her to sleep, lucky bum.

    He tilled for an hour while his papa followed along, picking up rocks. 

    Carving branches into sharp pointy sticks is all the rage these days.

    We’ve been eating an awful lot of store-bought bread and lunch meat these days. These particular sandwiches were for a picnic lunch at the park after a morning of running errands: library, barber shop (for shaggy boy—see top picture), a visit to the cat shelter (for petting purposes only), the pharmacy, etc. We topped it all off with DQ cones. The kids couldn’t believe their good fortune.

    I took my afternoon coffee on the deck so I could keep my eye on the weather—it was threatening to rain and there was laundry on the line.

    I’m not sure what to say about this picture. It appeared on my camera. (And yes, the kids aren’t allowed to use my camera without permission, but when stuff like this shows up, I have a hard time being mad.)

    Sparkle: a new (for us) kind of strawberry. I’m conflicted about them. The flavor is excellent, but they go all squishy mushy super easy and don’t keep well at all. I doubt I’ll plant them again. (We’re getting ready to plant a huge, new patch. Any suggestions on what kind of berries to choose?)

    Grape arbor monkey.
    He’s not allowed up there—the whole time I was taking pictures, 
    I was telling him to get down.
    Which wasn’t effective at all.

    Grape arbor house. 

    Chillin’ with G-daddy.

    Grandmommy came, and she brought squash pie. Two of them. (And the fans went wild.) 

    This same time, years previous: making art, Aunt Valerie’s blueberry bars, asparagus, goat cheese, and lemon pasta, questions and carrots, chicken butchering, a cake for Wayne, one dead mouse, strawberry ideas, the ways we play

  • the reason why

    This play has sucked up all my creative juices. It’s also sucked up lots of my waking hours and a bunch of my sleeping ones, too. I am no longer writing or cooking or even thinking about those things.

    It’s not that I don’t have time to write, because I do, but my energy levels are low. It’s like I’m in hibernation, just drifting through the day, half-heartedly maintaining the household, hoarding all my energy so I’ll have enough to make it through the practices.

    Also, I never realized how much of the writing process happens before I ever type out a single word. All those hours that I’m flitting about doing my predictable stuff, I’m pondering, musing, thinking. Then when I have a free hour to write, I can put out, bam.

    I never even knew that’s what was going on with my head.

    But now with five hours of my day spent in rehearsals, I’ve lost all that routine thinking time. My mind is fully absorbed. In fact, I have trouble carrying on a regular conversation and slip into running my lines at the drop of the hat. Example: when Nickel asked me a question during Sunday’s church service, I stared at him blankly, busily lost in working out a scene in my head, until my husband elbow-jabbed me and hissed, “Answer him!”

    The other reason I’m not writing is because being in a play is too new. I need time to process my experiences into a shareable format. If I were to write about it now, there would be far too much angst.

    I’m taking notes, though. You will (eventually) get the behind-the-scenes rundown. Promise.

    P.S. I talked a little about the play (and biscuits) in the latest Kitchen Chronicles.

    This same time, years previous: savoring Saturday’s sun, through my daughter’s eyes, Ranch dressing

  • the quotidian (5.21.12)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
     everyday; ordinary; commonplace


    lettuce, o beautiful lettuce


    the face of luuuv
    (and the reason I flinch when anyone puckers up in my general direction)

    fork-feeding the chickens

    I had high hopes for this pineapple mango salsa, 
    but my husband and I both thought it a little flat. 
    I probably did it wrong.

    My husband looked out the window and this is what he saw: the kids had turned the porch swing around so it faced out into the front yard and were happily sailing over the forsythia.

    white shirts for kids = the stupidest idea ever

    I set my script on the roof of the car while I dug in my bag for my keys with one hand 
    and shoved a cupcake into my mouth with the other. 
    “You are going to forget you put it there,” I warned myself. 
    And then I proceeded to do just that. 
    Not until I was pulling out of the parking lot did it come crashing down 
    and completely burst apart on the pavement. 
    I was laughing so hard I could hardly pick up the papers. 
    The end.

  • up at the property

    A little while back, my parents purchased thirteen acres of land about two-and-a-half miles from our house. After months of house plan creating and all kinds of official meetings with house-building people, the building process is finally underway.

    This month the foundation is being laid. Next month the house gets framed up. Also next month, my parents move in with us so they can help out with some of the work and supervise. (That’s also the month that we have three full weekends of play performances, our family travels to upstate NY once and my husband and I fly to NYC once. June is going to be a blurrrrrr.)

    The wonderful thing about this whole arrangement is that:

    1. My husband is working close to home.
    2. My husband can go to work as early as he wants (because he doesn’t have to wait for any house residents to wake up and clear out) which means he can come home sooner.
    3. The 13 acres are wooded and my kids love to play there.
    4. The kids can play on the aforementioned 13 wooded acres while my husband works and I run errands (or sleep).
    5. The older kids are old enough to actually go over there and work.
    6. The older kids can bike to the property all by themselves.

    This week Ted came with his backhoe and moved lots of dirt. The kids thought it was awesome. (And when a hydraulic hose broke and started spraying oil all over the place, the kids thought it was even more awesome.)

    Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, yes?

    Also, you can’t tell by the pictures, but it is LOUD up in them there woods. And not because of the heavy equipment, either. It’s loud because of the cicadas. The whole woods is a-buzz with their whiny whirring. It’s enough to give a person a headache. (My husband thought there was a car alarm going off for the first two hours he was there.)

    Seven years ago when the cicadas last made their appearance, my little brother—the one who likes to pretend he’s a groundhog-eating caveman—harvested (collected? caught?) a bunch of the cicadas and fried them in a skillet with some butter. He served them with a choice of sauces: Ranch dressing, ketchup, and honey. My then three-year-old daughter was intrigued. My brother offered her one. She popped it in her mouth and ate it. We have it on video.

    The older kids are doing actual work up there: helping to take measurements, bending and setting and cutting rebar, reinforcing the forms, and moving dirt. They get cuts and blisters, and, like a real construction workers, they bandage their wounds with electrical tape. They come home from the property filthy beyond measure.

    This same time, years previous: baked brown rice, strawberry spinach saladmy favorite thingscinnamon tea biscuits, rhubarb streusel muffins, caramel cake, pinterest, the boring blues, fowl-ness (a butchering tale)

  • a burger, a play, and some bagels

    My husband and I had a date night this past weekend. At first we just made plans to usher at the Blackfriars. But then we found overnight care for the kids at two different houses and decided to leave a little early so we could get a hamburger at Five Guys, yum.

    ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore was the name of the play we were ushering. I had been warned it was a dark play (and that under no circumstances whatsoever should I take the kids to it). In fact, I had long ago decided I didn’t want to see it at all.

    But then I got curious. It might be interesting to see how the actors pulled it off. I’d seen them do dramas and comedies, but a dark and bloody tragedy would be something new. Still, I was worried. Would it mess with my mind? Would our sweet date night be ruined?

    I was surprised by my reaction. I liked the play! It wasn’t exactly fun to watch, but it was extremely well executed (no pun intended), and the sex and violence weren’t gratuitous. The play was ugly and raw, yes. But not raunchy. It probably helped that I was so caught up in the acting details—how the blood got on stage, how they comported themselves while being nearly naked, how they acted those hard scenes and still remained emotionally stable individuals (though I guess they could all be wacko and I’d be none the wiser).

    The next morning, we slept in (to 6:30) (I am constitutionally unable to sleep in—it’s a curse). My husband told me the following story while I was still half-asleep. It made me laugh.

    The previous day, he was at home with the kids while I was at rehearsals. He was tilling the garden and the kids were playing on the front porch. He went into the house to check on them and they weren’t anywhere around. He thought they had maybe taken the TV and were watching a movie upstairs (wouldn’t be the first time), so he went to check.

    They were on the front porch roof. They had hauled out blankets, toys, books, and a radio, lathered up with sun screen, and were hanging out like a pack of college kids (minus the beer).

    My husband went back downstairs and used his cell to call them on the house phone. Nickel came running down to answer it. He never saw his papa crouched down between the plants and the fridge. 

    Papa: Hi. Where are you?

    Nickel (walking around, looking for his papa): Playing downstairs.

    Papa: Let me talk to your sister.

    Nickel (running the phone upstairs) (loud whisper): It’s Dad. Tell him we’re downstairs. Trick Dad!

    Daughter: Hi, Papa.

    Papa: Where are you guys?


    I want you to think very, very carefully about what you say.

    Daughter: (Pause.) On the roof?

    We got dressed for church (no yelling at kids required) and readied the house for the noon meal. My husband suggested we hit the bagel shop for breakfast, so we did.

    Two meals out and a play equaled one much-enjoyed date night. And, considering that I’ll be gone most evenings from 6 until 11 (give or take some minutes) for the next month, it was a smart, preemptive move, too.

    This same time, years previous: garden tales, part one, garden tales, part two, talking points rained out

  • the quotidian (5.7.12 and 5.14.12)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
     everyday; ordinary; commonplace

    iris in my window

    a mousy graveyard: the day after the babies died (for the story of that dreadful day, go here), the kids picked them out of the compost pile and put them to rest all proper-like

    making the headstone

    living on lettuce and loving it

    after a trip to the greenhouse

    my son as Alfred the Baker in a community children’s theater

    my daughter was a courtier: her dress’s skirt had six layers which made her inordinately happy

    a picture that appeared on my camera

    afternoon coffee break

    one final cuddle before everyone drove off

    a love/bargain letter to their papa: before I left for an evening of rehearsals, they presented him with this letter in which they promised to clean up the house if he’d let them watch some Tom and Jerry episodes before bed (he did)

    under-baked oatmeal bread (my fault): we ate the non-doughy parts and fed the rest to the chickens 

    playing dress-up 


    This same time, years previous: lemon rhubarb chicken, bald-headed baby and raspberry-mint tea
  • one more thing

    I’ve been a little distracted lately. Maybe you noticed? Probably, since I’ve all but ceased to post. I wasn’t completely honest when I made that list last week about all the stuff going on in my life. There was one more thing.

    Last week my older son and I auditioned for a play at the local university. And got parts.


    And then I stopped sleeping and partway lost my voice.

    I have never acted before. I’ve always wanted to act, but there was no theater program in my high school and I was too intimidated and insecure in college to give it a shot. I wondered what it would be like to be a part of a cast, to learn lines, to rehearse. In fact, a couple years ago I made up a list of dreams, and “being an actress” was the first thing I wrote down. (Not that being in one play makes me an actress, of course.)

    I’m on a steep learning curve. I’ve learned that a rehearsal time of 6:30 means you are ready to go at 6:30—signing in, getting dressed, all that stuff happens beforehand. I had to google to find out what a “green room” was (because the green room sure didn’t look all that green). I finally understand “blocking.” I’ve learned that when the stage manager says we have two minutes of break left, we’re supposed to say, “Thank you, two,” which, for some odd reason, makes me feel very British.

    I still feel like my brain is getting flipped upside down when people say “stage left” and “stage right.” The other night the director was telling us to “center down” and I had no idea what she meant. I just stood there, clueless, and then my “sister” sat down on the bench and I realized the director was telling her to “sit down.” I’m so lost I no longer even understand regular commands!

    My son is a Union soldier (and a non-speaking draft dodger) and a meeting house member. He carries a gun and tries to grab my stuff and my husband beats him up.

    I am Edith, the next-to-oldest child in a family of five kids. I am newly married and get to act 15 years younger than I really am (shouldn’t be too hard, I’m afraid). I have disturbing dreams and visions—the one bedroom scene makes me think of Tevye’s nightmare in Fiddler on the Roof (though it’s nothing like it)—and my kids love hearing me rehearse them. I’ve taken to interjecting my lines into everyday life. For example, when my husband (the real-life one) makes a comment about me being stressed, I start wailing. “It’s like a raging river ripped me from the ground and dragged me down with it!” (Also, he now calls me “Eeeediiith,” in a creaky, old-man voice.)

    I’m learning to navigate a hoop skirt. There will be corsets (and bloomers and chemises and petticoats and stockings and boots and skirts and bodices and bonnets and FLAME RETARDANT MATERIAL (though I don’t think I have to wear any, which is kind of good since my biggest childhood fear was of being burned at the stake) (though it would be rather dramatic to go up in flames, don’t you think?).

    Oh yeah, and we have to sing. There are trios and rounds and mini solos. I am not a strong singer and have never sung in a choir, so that’s all new to me, too. (Go me!)

    The other night, my brother graciously came over to help my son practice his bass lines.

    I’ve been guzzling ginger-lemon (and lime) tea like my life depends on it. (Edith’s may.)

    Performances are scheduled for the first three weekends in June. I’ll keep you posted.

    This same time, years previous: apricot pandowdy, lemony spinach and rice salad with fresh dill and feta, hummus, and rhubarb sorbet

  • the family reunion of 2012

    The family reunion was this past weekend. 

    People camped out on the floors and on
    sofas and on air mattresses and in beds. We made food and ate food and
    washed up the dirty dishes that held the food. We played in the rain and
    tracked in grass and  swatted flies. We talked and sang and twanged
    strings. Kids had meltdowns and squabbles and dirty diapers and migraine
    headaches and fevers and rashes. There were birthday candles and water
    balloons and trampoline jumping and basketball games and finger rocket
    battles and sewing parties.



    My uncle built this little man. It’s actually an instrument. The musician sits on the handle of the wooden paddle and hits it with a fist while holding the wooden man right above it. The paddle strikes the bottom of the man’s feet. The man dances wildly, his feet clicking and clacking merrily along.

    Mr. Wooden Man was the hit of the show.

    The children loved him.
    (Actually, there were two of them. The other one had clothes and hair and was named Titus, I think.)

    Singing his heart out.

    My mother read us a poem about my Grandfather.
    Little Willie bit his fingers. 
    Little Rachel chewed her hair. 
    Neither one could look at Russell, 
    Brother Russell, Russell Baer.
    and so on.
    “Enlightened,” from Chris Longenecker’s book How Trees Must Feel

    Donuts, of course!

    My aunt brought me this wire ladle (two of them, actually) for a hostess gift. It’s expressly for making donuts and other deep-fried goodies—the oil runs easily off the wires. It works like a charm.

    Right now I want a donut so bad I can taste it!

    I did not make enough. We devoured the entire recipe and kids were crying for more. And to think that I had considered not making any because I thought people might not really want to eat them!

    Finger rockets—they are now, like the donuts, a new tradition.

    Hello, dear brother! 
    Why, pray tell, are you taking my children on the roof in the heat of the battle? 
    Are you insane?

    A bouncing break.

    Neigh-eigh-eigh-borly horses. 

    Water balloon volleyball. 

    I think you should be able to rent four-week-old babies for parties. 
    They add so much to the ambiance.


    Taking it all in. 

    Singing siblings. 


    Lunch prep.

    Digging in: spaghetti with creamed asparagus, ham, and boiled eggs.
    We got a family picture. There were better ones—meaning, there were ones where we were all looking at the camera and smiling. But I like candids better. 

     And then they all went home and I fixed myself a drink (just with the Triple Sec) and put my feet up.
  • the definition of insanity

    I am sitting in McDonald’s, drinking copious amounts of soda and using their free wifi. I’m trying to be appreciative of this quiet time away from kids and chores, but the truth is, I hate sitting at a plastic table, staring out a plate glass window at a line of cars idling in the drive-through lane. The one saving grace: I brought a little baggie of hard pretzels to go with my sugary fizz.

    We’ve reached the final stages of cleaning for this weekend’s reunion. It feels like we’ve been cleaning forever, yet every time I turn around, I see five more things that need attention. It’s weird (and depressing) how that happens. And throughout it all, there is the undercurrent of my daughter’s room.

    My daughter’s room is the tragedy of our upstairs. It’s uncleanable. It’s incorrigible. It’s so bad that whenever I go in there my chest seizes up. My husband tried to work in there the other night. When he emerged, he was so frustrated that he was visibly trembling.

    “You know what the definition of insanity is?” he barked at me. “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results! We have got to do something different!”

    To give us a little credit, we have tried. We’ve created cozy corners. We’ve supplied lidded boxes that can be stashed under the bed. We’re rearranged furniture. We’ve forbidden her from messy habits such as sleeping on the floor. We’ve tried to institute daily pick-ups. We’ve confiscated the junk and sold it back to her. We’ve bribed and assisted and lectured. Nothing helps.

    This week my husband threw all the junk into one corner of her room (and that’s when he started twitching). Ever since then, the child of the non-immaculate room has been hauling down wash basket loads of stuff. I go through it when she’s not around. Giant stainless steel bowls get filled with trash (I’m dangerously liberal in my definition of the word “trash”) and dumped into garbage bags when she’s not looking. We are filling an enormous black bag full of all sorts of toys that aren’t quite trash but should be. The bag will get stuffed it a dark corner of the barn for a waiting period (i.e. toy purgatory)—if she misses something and can not be distracted, we will at least be able to appease her. 

    Our anti-insanity plan is to move her into a closet-sized room—her sister’s. Both girls are excited about the switcheroo. The older girl will lose some privacy (she’ll have to share with her little brother), but we’ll fix up a whole corner of the room for her “studio.” The younger girl will have less space in which to wreak havoc and much less stuff to wreak it with. I’m mildly hopeful.

    How do you minimize the bedroom clutter? Because if this doesn’t get better soon, we will go batty-twitchy-crazy. Seriously.

    This same time, years previous: burning the burn pile, strawberry cheesecake ice cream, nitpicking,