Posts Tagged With: country life

Those Care-Free Days

20150405_093955I grew up in a house that was a century old. The stairs creaked, it was a little drafty, and when my parents bought it, it needed lots (and lots and lots) of tlc. My parents saw something in that house I’m sure very few could. Their vision of turning that musty, dusty, old house into a home became a reality as they planned, gutted, painted, tore down, built up, and everything in between over the next 25 years. I can’t remember a summer going by without renovations being made.

When I was five years old my dad decided to dig out a basement. On one particular summer evening, I remember slipping inside our back door with my mom and sister to take a break from playing and get a drink. My dad was working below. As We stood in the kitchen we noticed the wall start to move. My mom rushed us out of the house and screamed at my dad from the back yard. There are few things I remember well from five years old, but the image of my dad running up the hill and the house caving in behind him I can play in my mind clear as day. I remember watching the pink sunset that night and the dust settling as my sister and I sat in our yard terrified and my parents rushed around to assess the damage and make calls. Our kitchen and part of the upstairs has fallen in where my dad had been working.

That disaster was the start of the most memorable summer of my childhood. Dirt piles everywhere, tractors coming and going, huge pipes to crawl through. Countless English papers were written about those particular three months of my life for the next two decades. Forget the trips to Disneyland, the vacations to sandy beaches and amusement parks. THAT summer is what I look back on with the fondest of memories.

If you were to ask my parents to honestly recall the events that took place that evening and the months that followed, you would likely get a much different story. While we were romping around playing Peter Pan on dirt piles and unearthing century-old artifacts, my parents were battling insurance companies. I’m sure many nights were spent stressing over architecture plans and building permits while we slept soundly after a full day in the sun. On top of all the stress they were facing, my dad broke his ankle while working on the project. Their adult reality was night-and-day different from ours as kids.

Earlier this spring my husband and I embarked on our own project of rather large proportions. We knew when we moved into our old home in the country we would have to fix the septic system at some point. That point came sooner than anticipated, and, as most projects go, everything that could go wrong, well, did. In a very big way.

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Before it all was destroyed…

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Piles and piles of dirt and sand, tractors coming and going, trees being torn out. Fighting county regulations and praying the inspectors would be flexible, reasonable and kind. I almost cried as I looked out the window the first day to see a muddy hole where our giant, beautiful pine trees once stood.

But among all the chaos comes an entirely different story. Our three boys wouldn’t tell you about the phone calls and the plans, the permits and the worry. Their story begins with the coolest tractors that currently line our driveway and Mr. P, who drives them that let them climb inside and check them out. It’s about mounds and mounds of sand and dirt, running from one to the other and getting so dirty their bath water turns to an icky, brown, thick consistency. I would imagine it would include eating frozen pizza (a time of two more than once, I’m embarrassed to admit) while the water was turned off and mom couldn’t do dishes. THEIRS is a story of a spring worth remembering.

IMG_20150409_144157_614 IMG_20150409_144429_678 IMG_20150409_144343_146Sometimes as adults we long for those care-free days when troubles were simply an adventure. We remember the “good old days” and forget that we are remembering with a child-like view. I have certainly had flash-backs this month as my boys have dug in the dirt and shouted with glee while my husband and I stress and wished I was back on that side of life.

Then I think about my parents. When they tell the story from those many years ago, they tell of the adventure, the little miracles along the way, and the FUN the kids had as we experienced the excitement. As we face adulthood and all the challenges that come with it, I hope we can live vicariously, even if only a little, through the lives of our children. We will undoubtedly have to face the bills, the paperwork, the phone calls and the frustrations, but they don’t. I hope I can look back and remember the joy on my boys’ faces and see moments like this through those innocent, child eyes. As adults, let’s remember to stress the stress, carry the burdens, and pay the expenses. But when all is said and done, let’s let our kids be kids, and let’s remember to try to see the world even if only a little through their child eyes. Because theirs is the story worth sharing.

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Categories: children, House projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Wingmen

When we moved from our house in town to our house 15 minutes from town, my husband and I started a list of all of the out-of-ordinary animals we saw (or evidence of them) around our property.IMG_0846

  • Muskrat
  • Snapping turtle (we named him Franklin and he lived in our pond until the flood)

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  • Deer

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  • Owls
  • Hawks
  • Eagles
  • Wild Turkey

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  • Rats (So. Many. Rats. I HATE rats)
  • Mice
  • Foxes
  • Coyotes
  • Elk

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  • Bull Snakes
  • Garden Snakes
  • Brown Bear (it knocked over our garbage can and stole bags of garbage one night, then knocked over our grill another)
  • Mountain lion (scat all over by our pond)
  • Rattle Snakes

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  • Bobcat (Howard, our dog, treed it and we watched it hiss at him for an hour)
  • Desert centipede

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  • Raccoon
  • Skunk
  • Milk Snake (in our house!)

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I had no idea what a city girl I was until I came face-to-face with my first rattle snake. Not to mention the rats, the mountain lions, the bears…Early on I realized that life would be different from here on out, and I had to raise my children accordingly. After we moved in, my husband and I set up the “buddy” system. The kids always had to have a buddy at all times when they were out exploring. I found myself constantly saying, “Where’s your buddy? Find your buddy! Don’t leave your buddy alone!” and the boys would run off, rolling their eyes. We found quickly that when we said “buddy” it didn’t have the right ring to it. For three rough-and-tumble boys, “Buddy” sounded far too sissy. But wingmen, now that was something little boys could get excited about. That night we found a really great you tube video of two fighter jets flying side-by-side, and we sat our boys down. We taught them about wingmen and told them of the grave responsibility they had for each other. A wingman never leaves his partner’s side. They help each other, they protect each other, and they warn each other of impending danger. They had graduated from “buddies” to “wingmen,” and it wasn’t a term to use lightly. They had a responsibility as brothers to stick by each other and protect each other, no matter what, no matter where. And it worked. I’m thankful for three boys that stick together, play together, and help each other out. Three wingmen flying side-by-side.

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This month I’ve been thinking about the “wingmen” I’ve had over the years in my life. Those that have flown beside me, who have helped me, and who have stuck with me no matter what. My amazing parents, my awesome sister, grandparents, in-laws, teachers, professors, friends, my husband…Those people that have flown by me both when the skies were clear and when the storms arose or bullets flew. More than anything, I’m thankful for a Father in Heaven who flies next to me, guides me, and lifts me up. The ultimate wingman.

This is a month of giving thanks, a month when we think about the amazing blessings we have in our lives. I imagine the things that we hold most dear and cherish more than ever this month are not things at all. They are the wingmen who have been at our side. Sometimes I think about those I love who have passed on. I think about the life they led and the life they left behind. I will always remember many years ago sitting in my grandma’s little living room after her funeral with cousins, aunts and uncles all around. Pictures were strewn across the floor. Pictures of old friends, new friends, family, and those she loved. Album after album of those that flew by her throughout her life. She left this life with very little worldly possessions. And that didn’t matter to any of us. She left behind so many with memories of her love and her influence. She flew by their side, and they flew by hers.

I’m so thankful for the wingmen in my life. Those that flew by me for only a short time, and those that continue to be there. This Thanksgiving let’s remember that our greatest blessings of all are those soaring through the winds of life by our side.

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Categories: Family | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

To All Those That Worry–Today I Choose Joy

I couldn’t tell how big the snake was. Maybe four feet. No doubt it had a rattle on the end. I had just glanced outside to check on our boys playing with the dog in the front when I spotted it, curled up on our porch. That’s when panic set in. I raced for the door just as N, our not-quite-two-year-old rounded the corner and caught a glance of that slithering monster. In two-year-old curious fashion, he took a few steps closer to get a better look. “No, stay back! Don’t come, N!” The snake coiled and began to hiss. I was hysterical. That rattle and the 4-foot long, scaly body sat between me and my son, and I felt helpless. N inched a little closer, my screams became more distressed as I could see the snake bare his fangs at that tiny boy.

I sat up straight in bed. I could hear crickets out the window and see the moon through our sliding glass door. No snakes. No children’s laughter. My heart was pounding. Just a dream, right? I jumped out of bed and ran to my boys’ room. Every inch of my body tingled with the aftershock of what I’d just imagined. My eyes strained to see N sleeping soundly through the darkness. Just a dream. A horrible, nasty One. Unfortunately it could very well have been real, but tonight it was just my mind conjuring up what I’ve dreaded so many times.

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Sometimes I wonder if worrying is something that automatically comes with motherhood. The baby, the worry, it’s a package deal. Usually it’s just a little nagging feeling on the back of your mind, other times it becomes so strong it overwhelms you. It probably wouldn’t be normal if we didn’t have a little concern, those moments before the nurse hands you that little miracle for the first time, waiting to know results for something questionable about their health, when you wonder if they will ever sleep through the night so you can become sane again. When they walk into their first day of kindergarden, crash their bike for the first time, or get their drivers license, go on their first date, go off to college states away, and become parents of their own. The uncertainty never ends!

Maybe I worry more than the normal mom, but I have a feeling I’m not alone. We love our kids and want the best for them, so naturally we are concerned for their well-being. But on the occasions when we feel overcome with this anxiety, when it is totally out of our control, faith is the only remedy. Faith, hope and love. I came across this quote a while back and have since put it up on our fridge to read every day.

 “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”
― Leo Buscaglia

A year ago a rather unpleasant turn of events left it so I was in constant uneasiness for an entire month. I couldn’t get the “what if’s” out of my mind. It involved my health, which has always been just great, but suddenly I wasn’t sure. Suddenly life seemed upside-down and I was running scenarios in my mind. What would my kids do if I were gone? Who would take care of them? Love them? Who would make my husband dinner every night or go on walks with him? It consumed me. I suddenly, for the first time in my life, felt so incredibly mortal. That worry sapped too many days of joy as we waited for answers.

My only comfort that month of waiting was my faith in a loving Heavenly Father. I knew whatever happened, he was in control. He was my anchor, and I realized he was the ONLY anchor that could hold us steady during turbulent times. I was so very thankful for that.

We later found that everything was fine and my worry had all been for naught. I had been robbed of the joy those days could have held.

That snake from my dreams lingers in the back of my mind like the poison it’s venom contained. I won’t allow such things out of my control to sap my days any more. Today I’ve decided to let faith win. Let hope be the deciding factor in how I will live. When we anchor our lives in the one thing that will hold, when we give our worry to the master of all, the fiercest of storms can try beat us down, but we will not sink. We will come out victorious.
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So today I choose joy. What about you?

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If I could figure out how it insert this movie in, I definitely would. It’s wonderful. It’s 5 minutes and worth the watch. But, with my pathetic technical skill, I don’t know how, so here’s the link:

Mountains to Climb

And an article that has helped me:

“I Will Not Fail Thee, nor Forsake Thee”

 

Categories: Motherhood, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Love Is Not a Jar of Peanut Butter

My grandparents raised seven children. Five girls, two boys. The perfect number for a baseball team. I’m sure if you were to ask them they’d tell you that life was a bit crazy back then. A bit crazy, a bit chaotic, but wonderful all at the same time. I love to hear their stories. One of my absolute favorite that Grandpa tells is of how the whole family, all nine of them, would pack into their little station wagon and go for a drive. When they’d come to a stop, the driver next to them would gape at the old station wagon with wide eyes. Grandpa could see their minds start to turn as they counted all the little blonde heads. one, two, three…little hands in the back seats would then shoot up holding the number seven next to the window, saving them the headache of trying to get a proper calculation. Then slowly the driver would pull away as fourteen eyes stared back.

Every time I go to the grocery store I hear the same phrase at least three times, if not a dozen. “Boy, you sure have your hands full!” It’s not that it bothers me, it really doesn’t. I’ve even caught myself saying the same thing to other moms and dads. I can only imagine the comments my grandma got when she braved the grocery store with her seven.

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The scary thing about going from two to three is that your thrown from a comfortable one-on-one defense into zone. It’s six little, quick, curious hands versus four. All those well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) grocery shoppers are totally right. We have our hands full. Our nights non-stop, our cars packed, our heads racing, our emotions on edge, our days unpredictable, and our laundry never-ending. What those grocery shoppers may or may not know is that nothing in this world could make us go back. A friend of mine always responds with a smile and says, “Yep. Full hands and a full heart.”

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No, I don’t mind the never ending barrage of having full hands. What does get to me just a bit is the people who like to make comments to the effect that having more than one or two means you won’t love them all as much. Like love is a jar of peanut butter that can only be spread so thin. I hope I would never make the assumption that someone who has fewer children loves their children less, just as I hope others don’t assume the same of our family. Love should never be given in quantity, whether it’s given to one or twenty one. When my third son was born, I can assure you I never once told my older two, “I’m sorry boys, I can’t hug you today. I’ve given all my love to the baby. Come back in the morning when I’ve found some more.” Love is not a finite number, and limiting it as such would make this world such a sad, sad place.

“Love is not a thing, it is not lost when given. You can offer your love completely to hundreds of people and still retain the same love you had originally.”
― Leo Buscaglia

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As parents I feel like sometimes we tend to look at other moms and dads and compare. If they do anything different from what we do or what we would like to do, we think they’re wrong. One child or seven children are neither necessarily indicators of a less loving, caring family. No child is the same, no circumstance has a single fix-all solution. Families all function differently, and that’s ok!

When we moved to the country, we weighed the pros and cons. We made lists on what it would mean for our children and for us and what it would mean for our family’s future. When we took the plunge, we ultimately did it for our children. We did it so that they could grow up hiking in their back yard, fishing, sailing, and watching wildlife out their bedroom window. We did it so that they could learn the value of hard work and helping the family and helping others. We did it for all the open space to run around in and get muddy. We made the decision weighing heavily on our love for our children.

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Others might find the city way of life suits their family better. Out of love for their children they might move within walking distance to schools, pools, little league practice, and in a neighborhood full of kids. Barbecues on summer Saturday nights, kids riding bikes and roller blading down the sidewalks, and picnicing every day at a park across the street.

Two very different lives, two very different families. Neither more right than the other, both parents doing what they feel is best for their children and their families. Doing it out of love.

When I sit at the table at my grandparents’ house eating a chicken salad sandwich and listening to the crazy stories of the good old days with a house full of girls and a couple boys, I wonder how on earth they survived. I wonder if they ever got a wink of sleep, if they could even count the number of band aids they went through, if they had even a second to themselves. I wonder how on earth they did it. But NEVER ever have I wondered if they loved all their kids, because I know they did. Just as I love my three, just as others love their one. I’m sure they made decisions different from what I make with my little family, but no doubt they weighed the pros and cons and decided what was best for them and their seven.

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We all make different decisions, have different values and dreams for our children. But for the most part those decisions are made out of love and with the best of intentions. Thank goodness love isn’t like peanut butter, that no child is the same, and that families can do what they feel is best for them under their circumstances. Thank goodness we can appreciate different parenting and respect other’s decisions even when they’re different from our own. Let’s try to do less assuming and remember we’re doing the best we can. It’s totally ok to disagree, but let’s choose to love, because there’s no limit to that.

Categories: Motherhood | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Curse of the Not-So-Green Thumb (Don’t give up!)

Everyone says that I look like my dad. Pale and freckly skin, dirty-blonde hair with a bit of a red tint, blue eyes. I like to think that I inherited his patience, but truth is, well, It’s more wishful thinking most days. I have my mom’s nose, her competitive spirit, and her love of the outdoors. I wish I could say that I got her ability to spell, but unfortunately in that I take after my dad (thank goodness for spell check!). Of all the traits I inherited from my parents, much to my dismay a green thumb was not one of them.

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My dad is a master gardener. Nothing in this world could beat his brilliant red tomatoes and spicy peppers. He can grow green beans like nobody’s business and pickle cucumbers with the best of ’em. Not a summer went by as a kid that we didn’t sit on the back porch eating a tomato straight from the yard, nor a fall without a gigantic pumpkin we picked out ourselves and carved. He knows his gardening stuff.

When I grew up, I was sure that I had green running through my veins. I was my father’s daughter after all, right? One year for Valentines Day my husband gave me a beautiful African Violet. He claimed it was so much better than any cut flower because it would stay alive forever. Sadly, it lasted just a few months before I murdered it. Brutally. And it was totally on accident. My husband never let me live that down. “I see how it is. Just like that poor African Violet I gave you with all my love.”

Before moving to the country we had a year of semi-success. I thought just maybe I was shaking my curse and rising to become the gardener I knew I was meant to be. 10 pumpkins, a handful of peas, several tomatoes, and probably a half dozen zucchini. Not to mention enough strawberries to keep my kids munching on them every time we played outside (thanks to a wasp nest that kept all living, breathing, strawberry-loving animal away). Looking back, that year was most likely the result of beginner’s luck.

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When we moved to the country, I had high hopes we would have the greenest, most lush garden in the whole county. We’d take the blue ribbon home for zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes, peas, green beans, AND rhubarb. We’d be the envy of the town. We had a nice little sunny spot, some dirt, and seeds. I might as well have written to Better Homes and Gardens right then and there. I was certain of our success. Summer came, little seedlings began to sprout. Then slowly we watched them shrivel and shrink. Not a single flower, not a teensy, tiny fruit. Even with all of my amazing gardening skills I inherited from my father or my fancy watering can could I make that garden grow. It was a painful time of truth. My thumb was not green and I had nothing to show.

Feeling defeated but not totally run down, I decided to give it one more year. I so desperately wanted to be a gardener, it almost hurt. We amended the soil, my husband built garden boxes to keep wildlife out, and I faithfully watered. The plants began to grow. Not huge, but they grew! Flowers came, and fruit appeared. Not much, but they were there!

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Built by my dad. I wish I would have listened when he tried to teach me about gardening AND woodworking as a kid!

Built by my dad. I wish I would have listened when he tried to teach me about gardening AND woodworking as a kid!

 

Tonight we picked our first tomato. Red, delicious, and probably only one of a handful that we’ll get this year. After fighting off mice, rats, raccoons, bunnies, deer, and Howard (that dumb dog!), and continuously trying to turn our mountain clay soil into something productive, our garden this summer is most definitely not something to brag about. When comparing it to my parents’ garden, it’s plum pathetic. But that tomato gives me hope. I might not have been born with a green thumb, but by golly, I’m going to turn it green if it drives me (and/or my husband) insane. Next year maybe we’ll pick a dozen tomatoes, a box full of potatoes, and enough strawberries to bake a pie. And someday maybe, just maybe, we’ll open a vegetable stand. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? Someday (as my oh-so supportive husband rolls his eyes).

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Dear boys, some things might not come easy like you think they should. Some days you might want nothing more than to sit down and give up.

“What’s wrong with this block tower?? It won’t stay UP!”

“This bike-riding business is just not for me!”

“Do you really need to know how to read to get by in life?”

“Girls have cooties! I can’t even talk to them. Why on earth would I want to take one to the prom?” (ok. so that’s a problem I might secretly not mind if you have for a little while!)

“That college diploma. I just don’t think I can do it.”

But keep trying. Keep hoping. It may not be easy, you may not be the best. You may never be the best, and that’s ok. But if you try, slowly, slowly, you’ll have success. It might come in surprising ways, but it will come. That little green tomato will grow, and when you pick it, You will taste the most delicious fruit you’ve ever had.

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Categories: country life, Life Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

That Sweet Smell of Septic Stench

I’ll be honest. Being a septic tank specialist was never an occupation I had aspirations of becoming growing up. In fact, it takes every ounce of energy to will myself to clean the bathrooms once a week. After the past few days, however, my kids have me pretty well convinced that doing such things would be the grandest of adventures.

We have now lived in the country for one year. ONE YEAR! Coming up on our year mark we decided it might be good to evaluate how everything was functioning, the septic tank being one of them. Upon opening the hatch it was clear that something wasn’t right. We gave the septic tank guy a call, and he came in his great big truck the very next morning. Our boys were watching out the window as he backed up the driveway. “Oh man, Mom! You HAVE to seeee this!!! That truck is HUGE! And Mom, it’s in our DRIVEWAY!” Even N couldn’t hide his enthusiasm. If simply seeing the truck parked 10 feet away wasn’t cool enough, my husband even let them go out and watch Mr. Septic Tank Man open the hatch and *ahem* suck up the contents (I’m embarrassed to even write that!). The boys were on top of the world. Life really doesn’t get much better than that from a 3 foot perspective, does it? The septic guy was great. Told them all about his job, joked around with them, told them how the tank worked, even let them play with his dog he brought along. By the time he’d finished they were totally ready to hand him their resumes,  jump on the truck and join his crew.

To our dismay, we found out that something was indeed wrong, and probably had been for several years (why in the world did we trust the previous owners when they said they’d take care of whatever needed to be done with the septic system?? And why did they do nothing to keep the property up for all those years?? Ugh, it still gets me all worked up thinking about it). We were talking an excavator, tearing apart our entire front yard, possibly loosing trees. Not to mention boku bucks to get it all done. We were not thrilled. The more we discussed the situation, the more bleak things looked. After a few minutes of silence, my husband broke in. “Oh jeez. I’ll do it. I’ll dig the 8 feet down, I’ll get in there. We don’t have to get an excavator, destroy our lawn, sell our souls to pay the Plummer. I’ll just do it myself.”

And he did. The next night he went to town, shovel in hand. He, R, and M worked long after the sun had gone down until they reached the tank. Getting the boys to bed that night was a chore (it ALWAYS is! Read here: Bedtime Battle). I heard the entire day summed up in two five-year-old breaths and a three-year-old trying to interject his two cents. “…And then, Mom, we hit a rock! It was huuuuge. But Dad did this with is shovel (imagine some crazy manuver), and it broke. And the dirt pile is so high. And guess what? You can’t even see us when we’re inside the hole. Could you see us, Mom? And tomorrow we’re gonna open the hatch. It will be AWESOME! It could be stinky, but that’s ok. We can just plug our noses. Will you plug your nose, too Mom?…” Disneyland wouldn’t hold a candle to the pure joy these boys were getting out of our nightmare project.

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The next night Grandpa came. They worked for hours trying to pry open the darn cement hatch. As I made dinner, I had little feet pitter-pattering in and out the door to give me the play-by-play. Then just before I called them in for bed, I heard cheering from the front lawn. “They got it, Mom! They smashed it open! …Boy is it stinky!” Honestly, I think the smell was half the excitement for those wacky boys. With a ton of hard work, a little septic specialist assistance, and the help of my father-in-law, my handy husband fixed the septic tank for a fraction of the cost and way less mess. What a stinky, disgusting relief!

The saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” took on a whole new meaning for me this week (or maybe it should go “one dad’s stinky septic tank failure is another boy’s muddy castle of bliss and excitement”).While my husband and I were cursing our lousy situation with our broken septic tank, our boys couldn’t get enough. Every pile of dirt added to their ecstasy. It was the highlight of the month, maybe even possibly the year. All my husband and I could see was a gaping, muddy, smelly hole and a cement slab that wouldn’t budge. Not to mention lots and lots of dollar signs going to one lucky plumber.

Kids have a way of seeing sunlight in the dark moments. I hope my boys don’t loose that enthusiasm for life. I hope they can find joy in every day and maintain that sweet innocence. Childhood is far too short to take anything for granted, even a smelly, gross hole. I hope we can all see life occasionally through the eyes of a child and experience the wonder and awe in our every-day (sometimes infuriating) situations. Let’s all try to be more childlike. Let’s try to see the fun in the mundane, the good in the awful, the sweet in the bitter. I know I could use some more of that rosy perspective in my life. Whether we be 2 or 102, I truly hope we can all find joy in the journey.

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Categories: country life, House projects, Life Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

When the Sun’s Commin’ Up I got Cakes on the Griddle

My husband and I met in college. Just like many college students, I was living off of cereal, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and spaghetti. I was a lousy cook. My husband on the other hand ate really, really well. When we started dating I think he took pity on me and would invite me over to eat quite often. We ate ravioli, lasagna, enchiladas, turkey, broccoli, asparagus, salads, real cheesecake, homemade brownies, and anything else you could imagine. It was SO nice to eat good food! You see, he had a roommate who was an excellent cook (say hello to his awesome wife at http://www.kyinthekitchen.com :). Not just an excellent cook. If he weren’t an engineer I would imagine he could be a professional chef. He was THAT good. From the beginning I knew that he was the master chef of the apartment, but I suppose I just assumed that my soon-to-be-husband wasn’t so bad himself. Well, when we got married the truth came out. My husband was excellent at cutting up the broccoli. He could wash off the grapes like a pro or stir a pot with the best of ’em. Beyond being a really good helper, he was no more of a cook than I was. In some ways I’d say that our position was worse than most newlyweds. While we were both really bad cooks, we were used to good food thanks to his roommate. Burned casserole and love was just not going to cut it. I had to learn how to fix something… and FAST! I had some pretty epic failures that summer, but over time I got the hang of our closet-sized kitchen and successfully kept our little family happy.

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When you think about country living one of the first things that comes to mind is good food, right? A hardy breakfast, a filling lunch, and a dinner fit for a cowboy. I certainly won’t brag about my amazing cooking skills that I wish I could say I’ve gained over the last seven years, but I will say that we don’t have to eat soggy spaghetti for dinner every night. Since we moved to the country, I have made an extra effort to make breakfasts to fit our new country life. We LOVE breakfast at our house, and I try hard to make sure that anyone walking out of our door in the morning leaves satisfied and ready to tackle the day. I am totally convinced that a good breakfast can make monumental differences in how you feel, act, and do. And country livin’ (and city livin’ I suppose too) means lots and lots to do! Breakfast is so very, very important.

So, without further ado, here’s a week’s worth of breakfast meals from our country kitchen. Just remember that I’m a novice at this country living and a little at cooking too. I admit I’m a copy-cat cook, so most of my recipes are from friends who are better chefs than me or from two of my favorite food sites:

allrecipes.com

100daysofrealfood.com

Ultimate Enfrijoladas
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One reason I love breakfast so much is probably because of our lovely little hens who so faithfully provide eggs for us every morning. The dog is a bit of a pain some of the time, the rooster is terrible most of the time, but the chickens are just plain AWESOME all the time. I absolutely love having chickens and would recommend it to anyone wanting pets. They are just great. Stinky, but great.

This is our favorite breakfast around here. My husband spent two years in Mexico and had enfrijoladas for breakfast, so this is a spin on what he loved so much there. Plain Enfrijoladas are another fav (though not one we ate this week). It’s just flour tortillas with refried beans, grated cheese, and salsa on top. I like this tortilla recipe:

http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/05/26/recipe-whole-wheat-tortillas/

Corn tortillas with cheese, ham, eggs, spinach and (if you want) refried beans and salsa on top.

If you’re feeling ambitious… Corn tortilla recipe:

http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2011/04/26/recipe-easy-whole-grain-corn-tortillas/

Blender Batter Pancakes

This one is a huge hit here thanks to my sweet friend Suzanne. We have used this fantastic recipe hundreds of times since she gave it to me a year or so ago. She’s a great cook who has read tons of books on nutrition so I trust her kitchen expertise. This recipe is nutritious, easy and so versatile.

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1 Cup plain yogurt
1 Cup Old Fashioned Oats

1/2 Cup another grain (ex. quinoa, rice, millet, buckwheat…)

1 TBSP melted butter or oil

1 tsp vanilla (unless using buckwheat. Then omit)

Blend in blender and sit overnight (I think Suzanne said this makes it better for you, but sometimes I forget and just do it all in the morning) In the morning, add:

1 egg

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

Blend until all combined. Add oats or yogurt to make it the right consistency. Cook on hot greased skillet.

Waffles

Probably the best waffle recipe I’ve ever tried.We like to add nuts to it too, cause we like those nuts!

http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/07/23/recipe-whole-wheat-waffles/

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French Toast

French Brioche from allrecipes.com is the way to make these! I usually make a loaf of to have with pulled pork or soup the night before and use what’s left for French Toast. I’ve tweaked the recipe to as follows and have never had it fail me:

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  • 1/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3 1/3 cups Whole Wheat Flour*
  • 1 TBSP Vital Wheat Gluten*
  • 1/4 cup (heaping) honey*
  • 1 TBSP* active dry yeast
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons water

Italics and * are things I’ve changed.

  1. Place the first seven ingredients in bread machine in order suggested by your manufacturer. Select dough cycle.
  2. Turn finished dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead 5 to 10 times. Separate into 2 or 3 pieces. Roll with hands into strips. Braid or twist strips together. Place onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Set aside to rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Whisk together 1 egg white and the water. Brush onto the top of the loaf.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until deep golden brown, about 20 minutes.

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/French-Brioche/Detail.aspx?event8=1&prop24=SR_Thumb&e11=french%20brioche&e8=Quick%20Search&event10=1&e7=Home%20Page&soid=sr_results_p1i1

The French Toast part is simple. So simple I don’t even measure. one egg, a bit of milk, cinnamon, and vanilla. Dip the bread in and fry it on a greased griddle.

C’s Cereal

We tried some hot cereal called Dee’s Cereal a few years ago and it was delicious. This is our home made attempt, using either cracked wheat or quinoa.

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Cracked wheat or quinoa, cooked. Sunflower seeds, Pecans or Walnuts (or both), raisins or blueberries, maple syrup or honey.

Oatmeal

Nothin’ beats good old oatmeal with brown sugar or honey, raisins or craisins, and walnuts!

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Granola

I’ve tried many granola recipes and this one knocks the socks off of any other I’ve tried. It’s crunchy and just sweet enough. Plus, the chunks actually stick together!

http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/04/04/recipe-granola-bars-cereal/

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Eggs Benedict

This was actually our dinner one night, so here’s an extra breakfast idea! This is the most requested breakfast meal at our house. And it’s THE definition of country cookin’. Nothing says home on the range like poached eggs and ham on homemade english muffins smothered in homemade holindaise sauce sprinkled with parsley.

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English Muffins: www.http://pinkrecipebox.com/whole-wheat-english-muffins/

Only thing I did different was to use all whole wheat (no all purpose) and add 1 TBSP vital wheat gluten. They turn out great!

hollandaise sauce: http://goodfood-lin.blogspot.com/2010/04/hollandiase-sauce-101.html

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Becoming a Country Girl

Last week a friend asked me, “Do you just love living out here?” I have to admit that I hesitated. After she left I felt ashamed. We really do live in a beautiful place. A stream running in the front, a pond with a bridge across, red rocks and a butte behind, a pretty house nestled into the hill. So why on earth could I not answer with a firm YES when my friend posed this question?

It started out innocent enough. I was just looking “for fun.” You know, maybe 10 years down the road. It was a year ago this month that I found the listing and fell in love. When my husband walked in from work that night I had it printed and stretched out for him to take a look. He gave it one glance and said something along the lines of, “That’s great! Make a file and write down what you like about it. Maybe here in 10 years we can find another similar to it.” A few weeks later an incident that made us a little nervous brought me back to the ad. An open house the very next day, what do you know! So we decided, just for fun, to check it out. That was it. The entire drive home we brainstormed ways that we could make it happen. It all hinged on whether or not we could sell our house fast enough. The next week it was up for sale, and within 24 hours we had three offers all over asking price. It was amazing how it all fell together. We were moving to the country!

The next month we spent thinking about the changes this would mean for our little family. My husband spent his summers growing up on his grandparents’ ranch, so this wouldn’t be a big change for him. For me on the other hand, little did I know what a city girl I really was. Looking back I guess I didn’t quite realize just what becoming a country girl would mean. Seriously, how hard could it be? I grew up in a small town, didn’t go shopping for new clothes hardly ever, didn’t mind a little hard work. I already was making some pretty darn good country breakfast fixin’s like pancakes and eggs, and most importantly John Denver was my all time FAVORITE singer. I was meant to be a country girl, right??

Well, I’ll be honest. I didn’t bet on coming across rattlesnakes in our back yard while my husband was at work. Or worrying about my kids being out of my sight for two minutes because we’d seen mountain lion and bear scat by the pond. Or having to talk to my sister in a little corner next to the window and not move because we had really bad cell service.Image

I often think about our sweet neighbors in town. I miss stopping by on the way to the park to say hello and hearing about their grandkids. The boys talk about their super-cool tree house that Dad built for them in our “Doctor Seuss Spruce” and the sand box underneath. It almost makes me ache for those days that I could watch them out the window while I washed the dishes as they played pirates. We would walk or run everywhere. To the grocery store, the hardware store, the park, our friends’ houses, the car shop… I kinda miss that. I kinda miss a lot of things about our old life in town.

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Then I think about those pretty awesome moments we’ve experienced here and I remember why we tried so hard to make this country life happen. Like when the boys and I spent a half-hour watching elk walk across the mountain in back of our house. When we spent our afternoons for a week picking chokecherries by the stream to make our own chokecherry syrup. The countless days spent fishing in our front yard, playing in the paddle boat, reading books under the big tree by the pond waiting for the muskrat to surface, or pretending pirates or mountain lions in the long grass below the butte. I’m definitely reminded on the nights we spend sitting and looking at the stars. Out in the country there are millions spread like a blanket across the sky. And best of all, I now have a pretty good excuse to only make it to the grocery store once, maybe even every-other week. 😉

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Over the last year I’ve had a mix of emotions. But in all the mix of emotions, I’ve decided that it’s ok. I’m glad we lived in the house in town, but I’m glad I stumbled across the listing for our house here in the country. I’m glad that we were able to make the friends we made in town. We still see them when we get a chance. I miss our tree house, but because we built one there we know how do build an even better one here. Our old house will always hold so many great memories in my mind. But over the last year we’ve made so many more wonderful memories here in the country. What’s so great is that there’s a lifetime more to make no matter where we are. And as long as we’re here in the country, I just might really become that country girl after all.

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