My children regularly send me instagrams and then every few days I tell my husband I have some fun stuff to show him and he’ll plop down on the sofa beside me and pop in an earbud. (Are we the only one who share earbuds on the regular?) It’s a great way to end the day, or the week.
Here are a few of my favorites, collected by my children and curated by me.
“Nobody knew where you were and your phone was off!” (Version Number Two is the more accurate me.)
I stand by this one hundred percent.
We have firsthand experience with porky pigs like these.
My older daughter says this is what working with my husband is like. (My husband is the one with the hammer.)
Don’t you DARE eat before supper.
Also from my older daughter. (I get a lot of carpentry clips.)
Because Charlotte was so much bigger than Emma had ever been, and Emma had delivered months ago and without us even knowing, we’d been watching Charlotte very closely for the last two months. I was determined not to miss this birth. Plus, I was concerned she might have twins. At first the idea of twins was exciting, but when I realized that twins would mean we wouldn’t get to milk her, I switched to fervently hoping it was a singleton. Not that I could do anything about it, of course.
We checked her twice daily, and many days I made mid-day treks down to the field, just to make sure I wasn’t missing something.
Things we were looking for:
Discharge Swollen backside Softening pins Bagging up Less wrinkle-age in the teats Ability to manually express milk Lack of appetite Restlessness
But day after day she was the same, same, freaking boring old same: enormous, and with a gradually filling bag and the hilarious, wide-stepping waddle to go with it.
And then, finally, on Saturday morning, there was a change. Instead of standing by the fence gazing forlornly up at the house waiting for The Man Who Brings Hay, Charlotte was hanging out way up in the field, so right away we knew something was up. Her pins didn’t look any different (they had been softening, but the dip wasn’t as dramatically visible as I thought it’d be), her teats were still wrinkly and bone dry, there was no discharge, and her bag and backside looked pretty much the same, but not eating was definitely different.
By mid-morning, she’d stationed herself down in the field and my younger daughter and I had joined her. She was up and then down, up and then down. The birth was obviously going to happen, so we alerted family members.
My brother’s kids were at my parents’ place. “Does [Grandson] have time to get a haircut?” my mom texted.
“Maybe?” I replied, and then I texted my other brother’s family who was enroute to Virginia for Thanksgiving week, and then my mom and dad showed up with the kids (Grandson’s hair half-cut), and my older daughter arrived and then my daughter-in-law and before long, we had a small crowd, aka, A Birth (semi)Circle.
The birth itself was uneventful.
The calf hung out in the sack until it hit the ground and burst open.
Charlotte gobbled up the goopy stuff.
My other brother’s family arrived, and we watched for awhile as the calf, a gorgeous little heifer, struggled to stand and we debated whether or not Charlotte was going to pop out another calf.
For a few minutes we thought she might — she laid back down and appeared to push; just fluids came out — but then she got back up and went about the business of worrisomely trailing her calf who was busy making friends with the humans.
calf’s first group selfies
From then on, things settled down. I considered naming the calf Grace since it was the start of Thanksgiving week (and then the name stuck). We didn’t see her nurse for the first 24 hours or so, but she was zipping around the field like she was jacked up on caffeine so we figured things were fine.
For the last couple days, we’ve been milk training Charlotte and feeding the colostrum to the pigs.
She’s an easy-going cow but getting her into the shed is tricky. She hates the dark, enclosed space, and the door sill made her totally freak: she steps her front feet over and then she’ll freeze and, gingerly lifting one hind foot as high as possible, she’d hold it there, peddling the air, before lunching forward in a rush, and then she’d do the same with the other foot, a surprise move that makes us roar with laughter.
She’s such a gentle cow, though. One evening when we couldn’t get her into the stall, my husband just free-stand milked her — in the shed but entirely unrestrained — with the machine and she just stood there.
This morning my husband finally got the halter on Charlotte (the lack of a halter was more an operator error than a cow problem) and then we were able to muscle her into the stall. Once in, she just stood there, as placid as could be, and I actually cuddled her, cradling her whole head in my arms like she was a giant snuggly dog.
The other day when I found myself on the far side of town, I stopped at Aldi’s. I only needed sour cream but by the time I’d walked to the dairy section and back to the checkout, my arms were full: assorted crackers, a candle, dill Havarti (for recipe comparison purposes), Lebanon bologna, and, of course, chocolate.
These peanut butter cups are, we all agree, much better than Reese’s peanut butter cups: creamier, less sweet, and without Reese’s icky chemical flavor and the bothersome paper cups. I wish I’d gotten several bags.
I’ve watched this at least three times. It makes me so, so happy.
Noemi is a surface pattern designer and water color painter, as well as a sewist. She has a website filled with embroidery tutorials, coloring pages, and themed inspo boards, plus a newsletter and blog.
I’m not usually one for these types of videos — I often find them a bit sappy — but the children made this one. It’s magical.
Bonus points go to the white-haired woman. What she said.
If you need a laugh, check out Jenny’s post. “We couldn’t be prouder of this one-star review. Come for the cool chairs, stay for the intersectional feminism.” I laughed out loud.
Have you watched Beckham (Netflix)?
At first I didn’t like the show — just some teen athlete getting rich way too fast, blah, blah, blah — so I quit watching. But then one night I tried it again out of boredom and got totally hooked. There’s so much to be fascinated by: the horrific fame, the long-lasting marriage, the complete obsession with the game. We watched the final episode last night but the glow lingers.
My friend and I were talking about pies and she suggested I put bacon grease in pie pastry when making an apple pie, as per her Grandma Agnes Foley’s instructions. So I did.
For one recipe of pie pastry, I used 4 ounces of homemade butter, 2.5 ounces of unstrained bacon grease and 1.5 ounces of lard, and then used the pastry to make a free-form pie — or strudel, or whatever you wanna call it.
Grandma Agnes was right! Bacon grease in pie pastry is glorious. It didn’t have a bacon flavor (though I suspect that might change if I added more), but it gave the pastry a special depth of flavor: saltier, umami-er, more robust and full-flavored. Paired with the sweetly-spiced apples, it was perfection.
ALSO. I am beginning to believe that strudels (or free-form pies or whatever) are leagues better than regular-shaped pies, at least when it comes to apple. The crust-to-fruit ratio is spot on, you can eat the strudel out of hand, and the vanilla drizzle ties the whole thing together into a tidy sweet package.
Do you ever pull up to a traffic light and look around at all the people sitting in their cars and think about how they — every single one of them — represent a whole universe? Each person is a world unto themselves, with passions and agonies and fears and longings.
When I think about it, really think about it, my mind spasms and I am suddenly equal parts invitoraged and depressed. The intensity with which I feel things is so enormous, so all-encompassing, and yet the whole of my universe is utterly invisible to all but a smattering of folks.
I am All I know. I am but a mere trifle.
Yesterday my older son dropped in to do a load of laundry. While the machine worked its magic, he left to go on a run. I was working on the computer when I heard him talking to someone out on the deck. At first I assumed he was on the phone but then I heard another voice. I peeked through the door and saw a grubby, ginger-bearded man.
My son popped his head in the door. “I met this guy who’s biking from DC to Florida and told him he could refill his water here.”
“Sure,” I said. “Does he need a bathroom? A shower? Does he want something to eat?” And then when I glimpsed the man walking away from the house, “Wait! Why’s he leaving? Stop him!”
“He’s just getting his water bottle,” my son laughed. “He’ll be right back.”
The two of them sat out on the deck while I heated up a plate of leftover lasagna and made coffee. While I puttered about the kitchen, I could hear the steady murmur of their voices, and through the window I saw them studying maps on their phones, absentmindedly petting the dogs while they chatted, pointing to the mountains that were rapidly being obscured by smoke from the forest fires. A little later when I was down in the field checking on Charlotte (no calf, STILL), my son called me. “He’s ready to leave. Do you have food we can send with him?”
By the time I got back to the house, my son had collected crackers and cheese, the bag of ginger cookies I’d already packed up, some apples. When the man went back out to his bike to get his water bottle to refill (which had been the whole reason for stopping at our house in the first place), my son said, “Just you wait till you hear his story, Mom.”
And then before he left, the man briefly filled me in himself: he’s a bilateral partial foot amputee, the casualty of a disastrous hiking accident, who is now hiking and biking, and posting about his adventures on his instagram and YouTube channel in hopes of inspiring other people to go after their dreams, even against all odds.
“Are we gonna be famous now?” I teased, and we all laughed.
After the man left, my son filled me in on their conversation story. “Do you actually think he’s for real?” I asked, ever skeptical. “How do we know he’s actually missing both feet?”
“I saw them, Mom. He showed me. Look him up!”
“Oh, okay,” I said, scrolling his Instagram page and feeling mildly relieved because — full disclosure — it did occur to me that he could lurk in the woods down the road until we left for town and then return to ransack the place.
My son said, “The whole time I was thinking of that—” His voice broke and and he nodded toward the sign hanging on our chimney.
I knew exactly what he meant. I felt the same way.
I don’t think that man’s an angel any more than I’m an angel. The angel, I think, is the connection that sparks when the worlds of complete strangers collide. For a few minutes on an ordinary Wednesday morning, that man’s life joined with ours. Briefly, barriers dropped. Stories got swapped, information shared, and food eaten. And now, thanks to that chance encounter, our world has expanded to include a bilateral partial foot amputee bicyclist who is on his way to Key West.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but my kids seem to have a thing for motorcycles.
At this point, three of the four have their motorcycle licenses, and my younger son is making noises about how many more years are left until he can join the gang. I’ve even heard my daughter-in-law speak about them favorably.
I’m not sure where this infatuation comes from. My husband is not in the least bit interested in them, and while I learned to drive a dirtbike at age 14 or 15, and I once rode two hours from college to home on the back of some guy’s bike — an experience I do not remember but friends say is true — that’s the extent of my motorcycling.
When my older son started itching for a bike, my husband and I were relieved to learn that Virginia law requires a person to be nineteen years old before getting a motorcycle license. That bought us a few years, but once that window closed and his hankering hadn’t quit, we realized we needed to stop stalling and set some ground rules to minimize headbutting. So we decided that 1) motorcycle ownership was forbidden while living at our house, and 2) they had to be off our medical insurance prior to buying a bike.
Some other expectations that have been initiated primarily by the children and then followed without question are that they’ve each paid for, taken, and passed a two-day motorcycle riding safety course, as well as purchased all the proper riding gear such as padded coats, biking pants, gloves, boots, helmets. We’ve also requested that my older daughter, who lives alone, shoot us a text before taking her bike out and again after she returns home. That all of the kids have taken these precautionary measures illustrates a certain level of maturity which, in turn, gives me some peace of mind. (And when it comes to motorcycles, any peace of mind, no matter how small, is a big deal.)
Currently, the two older children have their own health insurance, homes, and bikes. Our younger daughter is still at home and on our insurance, so while she just got her license, she’s not allowed to get her own bike. In the meantime, she borrows a friend’s bike to go on occasional practice rides, usually with her sister.
So how do I feel about them riding motorcycles?
Part of me hates it — it would be so much easier if they simply never did anything dangerous or risky — but another, bigger part of me knows that I don’t have control over their choices, and I don’t want control, either. Even though I might not crave that wind-in-the-hair freedom that they’re gluttons for, I do understand it, and in spite of my reservations, I can’t help but delight in their excitement and joy.
I’m proud of them, too. Proud of them for going after what they want, even when it’s not particularly parent-endorsed or parent-assisted. They are their own people.
So what do I do? I try to not think about accidents even as I accept that they may happen — that’s the hard one. Also, I lecture about reflective gear. I admire their fancy helmets and bluetooth headphone thingies, and listen to their riding stories. I snap photos and yell at them to quit revving the engines.
And when they pull out of the driveway, I wave goodbye and then walk back to the house hoping — opleasepleasepleaseplease — that they’ll get to wherever they’re going all in one piece.
My friend Sarah, the same one I interviewed for my homeschool series, sends out a Friday email to family and friends recounting happenings from the week, thoughts she’s been mulling over, recipes, her kids’ perspectives on life, and so on. I found last Friday’s edition, Friday Is Cleaning Day, especially entertaining, perhaps because I so well remember my countless attempts to wring order out of chaos (see How To Clean A Room and Constant Vigilance! and My Lot). I asked her if I might share the email as a guest post and she agreed, lucky us! I hope you enjoy Sarah’s spin on The Struggle as much as I did!
Some time ago at homeschool group, a group of us parents were discussing how we handle chores for our kids, especially room-cleaning. Later that week I got a text from one of the participants.
“So what happens when Friday comes and rooms are not clean?”
I love being asked for advice on parenting, so I wrote a lengthy response….
With Sam at this point a reminder is usually sufficient. With Asher sometimes I help — though the rule is he has to clean, not play, while I’m cleaning — or sometimes break up the task with something appealing: clean for a bit, then get X (a short video, playtime with me, etc., then clean again).
Other things that have worked in the past:
Make it a game: you’re the clean-up robot and I program you in a funny tickley way for each task.
Clean with music on.
Assign a stuffed toy or vehicle to clean an area/category (takes longer but is more fun).
Trade jobs: I clean the room, they do something unappealing to me that requires similar effort OR trade jobs with another kid.
Let the room stay messy but they’re required to clean up any paper scraps, dirt, mess tracked out of the room and I will not enter the room.
I also have spent a lot of time explaining reasons for cleaning the room: fire/nighttime safety; not attracting pests (once in Florida Sam found a big cockroach in his uncleaned room and it made a big impression!); being able to find things and use the space; my need for order for my mind to feel calm and happy. I also comment on the room when it’s clean: “It’s so nice for me to be able to play in here with you and have room to walk and sit,” or “Every time I see your room I feel happy because it looks so neat and clean,” or “That was the fastest I’ve ever seen you clean your room. Would you like me to do something fun with you for X minutes because I have time?” Things that point out the impact of their actions.
I’m guessing you already have tried a lot of these things. For me it helps to be open to multiple solutions that get our needs met, and know that different things will “work” for different children/ages. I also don’t worry a whole lot about ruining intrinsic motivation to clean because I recognize this as MY need, not theirs — some children and adults are perfectly happy living in a state that would make me flee the house!
not cleaning, not in the least
This week Asher had outdone himself in the scattering and strewing of toys, books, clothes, etc., all over the upstairs and migrating down. The hundreds of cardboardians had come out and were mixed with the Legos. The dress-up box was dumped on top of dozens of Lego instruction papers. On and on, making me want to quote The Cat in the Hat: “This mess is so big, and so deep, and so tall…”
So I helped with some of it, and used a bribe to speed along the rest: You have an hour to clean, and as soon as it’s done you can watch videos for the rest of the hour. He didn’t get it done within the hour, but it was close.
floor briefly free of toys
Sam picked up in his room and the bathroom, and vacuumed upstairs. I vacuumed downstairs and in between other tasks I mopped each room after it was cleaned and vacuumed. Whew, clean house!
…But not for long.
aaaand back to making messes
“Want to see me drop this paper onto the landing? It flutters!”
I’ve always hated going to the dentist, and the older I’ve gotten, the greater my loathing. When the pain or discomfort is in my head, I can’t separate myself from it like I can with a smashed toe or burned finger. Mouth pain is too close. It feels crazy-making.
So when I learned several years ago that I’d have to get my wisdom teeth out, I put it off for as long as possible. But last spring when I made like a two-year-old and began wisdom tooth teething, I pulled on my my big-girl panties and set an appointment with the oral surgeon. All the professionals said that the way the ruptured bottom right wisdom tooth was positioned, it would get cavities and eventually rot. Same as the top one. (The bottom left tooth wasn’t a problem since it was wedged under another tooth and might never emerge — messing with it posed a greater risk than leaving it alone — and I didn’t have a top left wisdom tooth.)
At the pre-op appointment with the surgeon, he said there was a risk of nerve damage. (I thought “nerve damage” meant a life-long stabbing nerve pain in my jaw, so when the surgeon explained that “nerve damage” meant a tingling numbness, I was like, Oh hell yes, that sounds lovely.) The surgeon also said the surgery would cost a minimum of $1200. He said they didn’t prescribe narcotics because prescription Ibuprofen and Tylenol worked better, and they’d sent home a topical gel, too. The nurse said I could pick what kind of Ben and Jerry’s I wanted to take home.
The closer the surgery got, the more I relaxed. The decision had been made. So be it. To prepare for the tedious recovery, I ordered four books and made planned to sign up for a free Hulu trial when I got back from surgery. I cleared my schedule and cleaned my room. I filled all my prescriptions, swished with Peridex, and borrowed my husband’s sweats.
The surgery was marvelous. I adore surgery, really. There’s something so utterly divine about passing out so completely, so deeply. I had wonderful, unmemorable dreams for a couple of blissful seconds and then all too soon voices were asking me if I could hear them and, before I could even open my eyes, people were shoving me into the car.
My husband had to hold my head up whenever he drove around turns, and when we got home, he drove all the way around the house to the front door so I wouldn’t have to go up steps. Which was smart because my legs kept giving out, much to the children’s enormous mirth. My son took photos, and in the one video he took (and that I just watched today), I flipped him off, ha!
Surgery Day I was fine.
I iced my face religiously. I made phone calls. My parents visited and brought bananas for smoothies. I ate the boxed mac and cheese they sent home (they didn’t send home the ice cream!), and binged Fleishman Is In Trouble and started read a bunch of Viola Davis’s book and took pain meds and slept.
My younger daughter went to the store and sent me a photo of the Ben and Jerry selection and I picked out three kinds (so there, doctor’s office), but my numbed tongue made the ice cream taste hot so I didn’t eat any.
She brought me flowers, too.
Day Two I took the meds. I continued icing my face. I slept. I made smoothies. I ate veggie soup that a friend gave me ahead of time. I ate an egg. The tooth pain wasn’t bad but my brain didn’t feel like it was working. I had constant headaches and I felt woozy, probably from the meds. I read and watched Tiny Beautiful Things (which I don’t like — it’s overdone). I made a gingery curried chicken noodle soup.
Day Three I switched to heat compresses. I kept going with the meds. I filmed the making of a fenugreek-spiced Gouda and made mozzarella (my husband and kids did all the heavy lifting and dishwashing, and I didn’t talk to the camera — I’ll do voice over later).
I visited the cows, and I ran errands with my husband.
seltzer with a splash of sweetened home-canned grape juice concentrate
I very slowly ate a piece of pizza. The pain began intensifying. My head was still hurting.
Day Four I slept in the morning and in the afternoon.
I read my book and watched Pain Hustlers which was fitting and also really good. I still had that constant headache and the tooth pain was worsening. I began to notice a pattern: after taking the Ibuprofen, it’d take 45-55 painful minutes to kick in, I’d get 3-4 hours of relief before it wore off, and then I’d have to wait another 3-4 hours until I could take my next dose. I felt pathetic, like Mrs. Dubose in To Kill A Mockingbird, counting down the hours till I could take my next pill. Tylenol and the oral gel didn’t noticeably help, but I took them anyway.
That night, I woke up in pain an hour before my 2am alarm went off for my meds. I waited an hour, took the pill, and then waited another hour for it to kick in. While I waited, my husband rubbed my back (and then fell asleep), and I paced the floor and cried a little.
Day Five I called the surgeon’s office and we increased the meds to the full amount: 3200 mg Ibuprofen and 3000 mg Tylenol. I worked out an around-the-clock schedule to best manage the pain. They also prescribed Oxycodone, which my husband picked up on the way home from work. The doctor said Days 3 and 4 would be the worst, so I tried to behave as normally as possible, hoping to pull myself through. I made a chocolate cake and washed dishes. I pierced my blue cheese and packaged some of the cheeses. I went for a very slow, very short walk. I visited the cows. I baked bread and made a big pot of spaghetti.
That night after much hemming and hawing (I’m scared of drugs, my daughter had thrown up after she’d taken it, and my brother said it made him weird and grouchy), I took an Oxycodone and went to bed. I slept for about 2 hours, dreaming about being in pain the whole time, and woke up shortly after midnight, in. so. much. pain, pain that was all the more startling because I thought I’d pulled out the big guns and it wasn’t touching it. I took my regular prescription Ibuprofen, but it took two hours to kick in instead of one (probably because I’d fallen behind on pain management). The pain was deep — in my cheekbones, in my lower jaw and chin, my temple, my ear. I watched some dumb Netflix, cried, tried hot compresses, squeezed my husband’s hand for a long time, and finally fell into a fitful sleep around three.
Day 6 I caught back up on my pain management and began functioning (I made pancakes and phonecalls, edited video, baked bread), but I was exhausted, emotionally wrung out from the relentless pain and the lack of sleep. I felt like an absolute baby for hurting so badly, or else a hero for hurting so much and surviving. I couldn’t decide.
And then I started worrying that I had an infection or dry socket or some other horrible problem. The doctor wanted me to come in, but I couldn’t imagine driving anywhere because I felt like crap or having anyone poke around in my mouth, so I called my husband and wailed about my woes — I’m sick of meds, I’m sick of hurting, I can’t do this, I’m sooo tired, I want to be normal, I hate taking medicine, I’m killing my liver, I miss exercising, my brain isn’t working, I can’t make decisions, I want someone to tell me what to do, when will this be over — and he reminded me that it’s fine to take tons of medicine for a week or so, so why don’t I just take one of my anxiety pills leftover from when I did the show and try to sleep?
So my daughter photographed the inside of my mouth and there was no visible bone, no inflammation, no puss, no weird redness, and I was like, That’s it. I’m totally fine. This just hurts so wicked bad because I’m not a teenager anymore — the NORMAL age for wisdom teeth extractions — and my face is freaking set in its bonehard ways. I am fine and I will make it. Period.
And then I took an anxiety pill and passed out on the sofa for the rest of the afternoon. We went to my brother’s house for supper that night, and my face killed, but then I took another anxiety pill at bedtime, slept the whole freaking night, and woke up with hope in my heart.
Day Seven Today. First thing, I tried to cut back on my meds because I’m kinda stupid like that, but 15 minutes later I caught myself (or the pain caught me, rather), took the full amount, and now I’m sitting on the sofa in front of the fire, fuzzy-brained and tired, but feeling okay because I know that I’ll be able to sleep tonight, a pill that works, yay!
I am on the mend. I will be done with this soon.
If you can afford it and if your dentist recommends it, get your kids’ wisdom teeth out when they’re teenagers. My youngest is the only one who hasn’t had his out yet and I’m gonna make sure it happens within the next year.
I’ve lost my taste for coffee. I’ve tried to drink it twice and it tastes like crap. Tea’s good, though.
I miss miss miss feeling strong. Since I love being sedentary, the fact that I miss exercising — as in, I miss it to the point of pining after it — is a little surprising.
I have this Hulu trial for another three weeks: recommendations, please?
Whenever I hear someone say “scalloped potatoes” I always think “scalped.”
Though it wasn’t until just now when I said that that I realized scalped is not the same as scalloped, ha! Turns out, “scalloped” is derived from the English word “collop” which means to slice thinly. Thanks, Google.
Anyway! I’ve been digging scalloped potatoes. They’re a little intensive on the front end — all that slicing and all, though a mandolindoes simplify the process considerably — but once assembled, they’re hands-off and super duper accommodating, pairing well with almost any meaty main dish, as well as making a fantastic addition to your morning breakfast eggs.
a wee bit of flour
Scalloped potatoes can be barebones simple — just a little flour, S&P, butter, and milk — or gussy them up with grated cheeses, sliced onions, thinly sliced cabbage, browned sausage or crumbled bacon, herbs, whatever. Chef’s choice.
cheesin’ this batch up real good
smacking on some quark
Scalloped Potatoes My mother’s method, more or less.
potatoes, sliced thin 2-4 tablespoons butter plenty of salt and some black pepper 3-5 teaspoons all-purpose flour 2-4 cups milk
Generously butter a sided baking dish. Arrange a single layer of potato slices in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle a teaspoon of flour over the potatoes. Salt well. Add a grind of pepper. If using cheese/meat/veggies, layer them in at this point as well.
Repeat, filling the pan with three to five layer of potatoes. Don’t fill the pan more than three-fourths full because if filled too full, the milk will bubble over and make a smokey mess of the oven. After the final layer of potatoes, skip the flour, sprinkle with S&P, dot with the butter, and then pour several cups of milk over the whole kit and kaboodle. The potatoes don’t need to be submerged with milk — just enough to keep them pleasantly saucy.
Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 60-90 minutes or until the potatoes are fork-tender. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes or until the top is nice and toasty brown.