The Mama Bus

In a word?…YOU.

You heard me, look in the mirror. Yes, you.

How dare I say that? I’ll tell you how; I’ve been in & out of a leadership position in youth ministry over the past 3 decades spanning both coasts. Those early kids are now parents, and I am currently the parent of 4, yes FOUR WONDERFUL teenagers.

That’s right, I called them WONDERFUL!

Do I have your attention?

Good.

I’m so sick and tired of society assuming the worst of young people who are ready to storm the world with fresh ideas and energy.

It starts when they’re little. When we had 4 kids under the age of 5, we already started to hear it… “Just wait until their teenagers…” I’d respond with a cheerful, “I can’t wait; it’s going to be amazing!”

But their little ears heard the message, over, and over, and over again…teenagers are trouble.

Then they got a little older, and the first one began to drive. This is what he heard from you, “OH NO! Stay off the road! The roads are no longer safe because you’re driving!”  Would you like to know what I told him? “Hooray! After driving you around for the past 15 ½ years, I finally have a chauffeur, it’s your turn to drive me! You’re going to be great!” And guess what…he is. He is an excellent driver, partially because he listened to me, his cheerleader, and ignored you.
I now have one fully licensed driver (he also passed his motorcycle endorsement with flying colors), and one more in training. And I say all the time that I’m very pampered, I now have not one, but two chauffeurs at my beck and call.

Thirteen-year-old girls are the worst!

Oh yeah? Do you remember what it was like to be a 13 year old girl? Yeah, it’s the worst…from a 13yo girl’s perspective.

But if you give a 13yo girl a chance, guess what? She’s bright, energetic, loves to babysit, loves to cook or draw or paint, play music or play sports. My 13yo girl decorated no less than 6 birthday cakes for a family reunion that happened to fall in a big birthday month. She’s amazing! And all those other 13yo girls would be too if you would give them half a chance.
If you’ve known me for very long, you know I’m passionate about teens.

So what prompted me to step onto my soapbox today?

Little League…yep, baseball with the 12 & under crowd. T-ball where the T must stand for ‘tackle’ because that’s what all the kids do when the ball is hit into the infield, there is mass chaos of the most wonderful sort as they all scramble for the ball; Rookie/Coach pitch where they’re super enthusiastic and are beginning to understand the game. Minors…they get it, but still are working on the physical control it takes to pitch the ball over the plate, hit that wild ball pitched by one of your buddies, and catch that ball that’s been lobbed hard and not aimed well. Then you hit the majors, where the kids really are getting good; home runs, double plays, tight games, all under a brilliant blue sky with just enough breeze to waft the smell of the hot dogs on the grill your way and tantalize your taste buds.

Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? It is…and yet, it isn’t.

Over the past 10 years that our kids have been playing ball, we’ve seen a subtle shift of less and less parental involvement. More and more parents are using sports as a babysitting service, many of them not even staying for their games…it’s sad really because I can tell you, that as a mom, there’s nothing like the thrill of actually being there to see your kid make that game winning play, or personal best hit or catch.
This year our league was desperately in need of coaches. Repeated pleas to the parents of the kids on the team yielded no volunteers. The head of the league contacted me, knowing that my oldest teen is now legally an adult. You see, you need to be an official ‘adult’ to coach little league. He gladly volunteered as did his 16yo brother.

Did you hear that?

What all the parents were unwilling to do; two teenage boys without any siblings on the team were willing to step in. And they did so with the complete knowledge that at one point in the season they would have to play against the team that their sister was on.

Yeah…teenagers these days.

Opening Day, those boys were ready to meet their team and march in the parade. We arrived early to find that some of the uniforms had not been picked up by the parents. So we hustled as fast as we could back to the beginning of the parade route to deliver the uniforms. Was my son thanked? Recognized as coach? Nope. Nothing but ‘tude from the parents…yeah, those same parents that ignored the emails begging for a coach. I’m proud of my boys, they just walked away.

The problem with teens these days is you.

Did you ever stop to think about what it takes to run a baseball league? None of these people are paid; they do it for the kids, out of the goodness of their heart. But guess what? When it comes to some of the day to day stuff like running the score board, grooming the fields, even coaching and umpiring, guess who some of the most enthusiastic volunteers are?

Teenagers.

Those kids who have recently aged out of the system and have fond memories on the field; many of them with younger siblings still playing. They get it. They know how much baseball meant to them and they want to make sure that other kids have the same glorious experience.

This Saturday found my 16yo umpiring a minor league game, not unusual as he has umped many times over the past 3 years. This game however was unusual. I witnessed some very poor behavior from the coaches on both sides, and even some of the parents as they questioned and berated the ump, my son.

How did my 16yo son handle it? With grace, determination, consistency and calm.

Many of the parents came and thanked him afterwards, they recognized how out of line the coaches and other parents were. Anyone who has ever played baseball knows the cardinal rule, you don’t question the ump, his rule is final.

Again…the problem with teenagers today is you.

Why was my 16 yo son going to coach a team this year? Because none of the adults could be bothered.

The problem with teenagers today is you.

 

Why was my 16yo son umpiring again today? Because none of the adults could be bothered.

The problem with teenagers today is you.

 

So if the problem with teenagers today is you, then the solution must also lie with you.

So what are YOU going to do about it?

 

If we’re facebook friends, you probably know that we slaughtered our pig this week.  It’s a necessary part of the cycle of farm life, but one met with mixed feelings.  We hired Ed from Henwyn Farm and could not have been more pleased.  He was gentle, thoughtful, thorough and educated the kids and I throughout the whole process.

I’m not one to waste anything, and Ed was a wealth of information.  As we were taking care of business, the boys started teasing me about head cheese.  Ed assured me that it was quite easy to prepare, so I took mental notes and took on the challenge.

Fun fact…A pigs head can contain up to 20 lbs of useable meat.

Head cheese is not cheese, but rather a type of lunch meat.  And it’s not brains…a pig has a VERY small brain, most of it’s head is filled with meat…gives a whole new understanding to the Archie Bunker term “Meathead” doesn’t it?

I’ll spare you the details of slaughter day…but those of weak constitutions might want to stop reading right here…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still here?   Good!

 

 

So on slaughter day, after Chummy was fully processed and we were waiting for back up to help take her off the hooks…she was a BIG PIG! 

Jonathan commented…

 

 

“If you walk through a wardrobe, you end up in Narnia…What happens if you walk through a pig?!”

 

 

 

Leave it to Jonathan to ALWAYS provide comic relief!

 

 

OK…Still with me?!…Fast forward to Sunday…

Chummy (aka Miss Piggy Wigg) had hung in Ed’s cooler for a couple days and was ready to be processed.  One more cool thing about Ed is that he teaches others this ‘peasant wisdom that we all used to know’, and Miss Piggy Wigg had the opportunity to to lend a cloven hoof.  Randy picked up the cut, wrapped pieces, and took the

32 POUNDS OF BACON to the smokehouse…

 

 

Did you catch that? 32 POUNDS OF BACON!!!!!!!!!

What came home? A lot of neatly wrapped white packages labeled, roast, ham, ribs, loin….

And then there was the head…

Remember, I had accepted the boys’ challenge about head cheese.

I have big pots…

after all, I feed a family of 9 on a daily basis…5 of them being boys/men…but it turns out that I don’t have a pot big enough for a pig head…


I had the boys bring me the lobster pot…it’s shorter but wider.  Nope…the snout still stuck out. 

Jenn tells me that this is a 3rd world problem…

So I call up my buddy Jodi who has a turkey fryer…

 

And Jodi’s pot wins by a nose!

 

 

Everything is better if you add veggies…

 

 

Sorry if these images disturb you…here’s what my cutie pies were doing while I boiled a pig’s head…

 

Redneck Rock Spreading

July 6, 2013

Rain, rain, go away….

It’s been raining for days, pouring actually.  Everything is sticky from the humidity.  Tuesday night it POUNDED.  I thought it was the rain pounding on the roof all night…turns out it was the rain pounding our driveway all the way down Smith Hill Road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I awoke Tuesday to the phone ringing…

It was Randy warning me that Jeremiah would likely not be able to get his car out of the driveway, so deep were the ruts left by the previous night’s storm.  Randy had barely made it and his car has a much higher clearance.  He had checked with the experts at work and found out what kind of rock I needed to order to make our driveway passable again.

Have you ever ordered rock?

I sure haven’t, I started out by ordering a ton. The nice man on the other side of the phone politely informed me that they do not deliver that small of a load.  Really?!  Because a ton sure sounds like a lot to me!  The minimum delivery was 5 yards which equal about 7 ½ tons, which sounds like an enormous pile of rock to me.

Turns out, this is what 7 ½ tons of rock looks like.

 

So how do you go about moving 7 ½ tons of rock when you don’t own a grader or any other road-building equipment?

Well, it helps to have a rusty old truck….

In Jeremiah’s words, “Rock was delivered today, so Jerry gets to play!”

 

In the meantime I had mentioned on facebook that our road washed out, so my good friend Dawn volunteered to bring her kids over to help spread the rock.

 

It’s amazing how perspective changes things.

On the phone 7 ½ tons of rock sounded like a lot, when it was delivered, it seemed like a little. After the fun & games with the truck were over and we started spreading it by hand, it seemed like a lot again. Then when we saw how many ruts and holes still needed to be filled in, it seemed like a little again.  Same amount of rock, same amount of holes, same road just different perspective.

Bottom line, 7 ½ tons wasn’t enough.  Have I mentioned I don’t know rock?  The guys at R.D. Edmunds were awesome, I got on the phone, ordered another 7 ½ tons and again they delivered it right away.  They’re only about 4 miles away, but I still could not believe how fast they arrived.  I swear the guy got off the phone, loaded the truck and drove right over here; talk about customer service!

 

All 9 kids and both Mamas set to work spreading another pile of rock. This time I got to drive the truck.  I was told by one of the teenage boys I may have a future as a Monster Truck driver…

 

When spreading rock, there comes a point that it really helps to have some sort of equipment, especially when it’s 90 degrees and about 90% humidity.

Dawn had a York rake that would help, but we had no way of pulling it since our lawn tractor was dead, and the truck hitch was too tall.

It’s good to live in the country, and have an old farmer for a neighbor.  I went knocking and asked if he had a 4-wheeler or a lawn tractor that we could borrow, and he did us one better.  He hooked up his grader to his ancient red farm-all tractor, and came up and finished the road for us!  I think I owe him a dozen eggs…and a dozen or so cookies…and a home cooked dinner!

Thanks to Mr. Merrill and his amazing tractor, this is how we spent the rest of the day…

 

 

 

 

If your three-year-old projectile vomits in your bed at 2:04 am…

You will be instantly jolted to a semi-awake state of action.

You’ll head for bathroom to get a towel and wash off the offending matter.

Your husband will follow carrying the three-year-old who is spraying 3 times her body weight in stomach acid and dinner remains from your bedroom to the bathroom like a crazed fire hose from a horror movie.

While you run a bath for the offending child, your husband will strip the bed.

As you begin to clean the floor, you realize that you loaned your good mop to the neighbor the day before.

So you’ll dig in the back of the broom closet for your back-up mop,

While digging for your back-up mop, you’ll pull everything out of the broom closet to find the mop head and in your bare feet will step on a stray piece of bark that dropped from a piece of firewood…

Your scream will bring your husband running, he’ll clean up the floor and put the broom closet back together while you don a hazmat suit and head back to the bathroom.

As you are disinfecting the entire bathroom, your husband will change the bed…he’ll need fresh sheets…

You’ll open the linen closet and an avalanche of bath towels, rugs, pillowcases and hand towels will cascade over your head.  You’ll find clean sheets under the stack of dishtowels that you’ve been missing for weeks…

While your husband is changing the sheets, your 3-year-old will chirp cheerfully in the bathtub.  You’ll overhaul the linen closet looking for a washcloth to clean up your child.  You won’t find any and will use a hand towel instead.

While washing up your sick child, your husband will fill the washer with the vile sheets and bed pad, set the rank comforter next to the washer and head downstairs to find a sleeping bag to use for a blanket.  While he’s down there he’ll re-organize the camping supplies.

Meanwhile, you’ll find puke in places you never dreamed possible and contemplate the capacity of a 3-year-old’s stomach.

As you wrap her in her favorite doggy towel she’ll start a conversation with you, it will go something like this…

“I wish Maddy could have puppies”

“Mmmmhmmm…puppies could be fun”

“Yeah, but first she needs to go to college”

“Oh really? The dog needs to go to college?”

“Yeah, and get married…first Maddie needs to get married, then go to college, then have puppies”

Giggling, you’ll tuck your now sweet-smelling three-year old in on the couch that has been covered by a towel and hand her a bucket, just in case…

Next you’ll start the washer again, and sit down to blog about the evening’s adventures…

While you’re writing about how glamorous motherhood is, you’ll hear the unmistakable retching sound from the couch.  Your husband will find you a washcloth from the other bathroom, and bring a fresh bucket.

Since the three-year-old doesn’t have very good aim, you’ll need to replace the towel and couch cover…thankfully the linen closet is now perfectly organized, so you know exactly where the back-up couch cover is…

While your husband changes the couch cover, you’ll head to the girls’ room in search of fresh jammies.

You’ll find some only after cleaning out her dresser and putting away the load of laundry on top.

After mopping her up, locating a clean blanket, and getting her into fresh jammies, you’ll start some ginger tea to settle her stomach and your husband will head to bed in hopes of getting an hour or two of sleep.

As soon as you sit back down, you’ll hear that horrific sound again…

This time she’ll have better aim.  You’ll find the last remaining clean washcloth in the kids bathroom, clean her up and bring her a fresh bucket.

Then you’ll transfer the laundry and head to bed, contemplating the whereabouts of the rest of the washcloths.

Because chances are…if the three- year-old is sick today…the five-year-old will be tomorrow…

 

Winter sports are big here in NH, and we have enjoyed several of them.  However, there are some that are cost prohibitive to large families.  Skiing and snowboarding are fine examples.  So when I read that there was a “Learn to Ski/Snowboard For Free Week” sponsored by the local ski areas, I was excited!

We signed up and eagerly awaited the day.  The little girls were too young to attend, and sadly, Jillian got sick the day before.  So the boys and I bundled up and headed for Gunstock.

We couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather.  It was sunny & blue sky with temps just above freezing.

Because our family is so large, we were supposed to be split into two different classes; the big boys at noon, and James & I at 2:00.  But when we checked in and the instructors realized we were all together, they said we could all go at noon.  Sadly, this thwarted my plans…I wasn’t expecting to have to keep up with the teenage boys; my plan was to be paired with the 7 year-old!

We had great instructors, very encouraging and fun.  My rental boots were rubbing a blister on my heel, and digging into my calves, but it was totally worth it, we were having a blast!

Turns out that like many other areas in life…I do it “goofy”…

In snowboarding, that means you put your right foot forward instead of your left.  The boys of course found it amusing and somewhat predictable that “Mom does it goofy”.

After our lesson, James & I headed into the lodge to warm up and have a bite to eat while the 3 big boys hit the slopes.  After our brief respite, James was ready to ride the chair lift and hit the big time.

I wish I could tell you that I shredded the mountain like a boss…but I’d be lying.

The fabulous blue sky and sunshine that we enjoyed conspired to turn the snow to ice.  My trip down the mountain included sliding, falling, a little bit of snowboarding, a little bit of hiking and maybe a little bit of screaming.

As fun as it was, that blister on my heel was begging me to stop, so we headed back to the lodge to meet up with our friends the Platte’s who had a late afternoon lesson.  After another bite to eat, James was ready to hit the slopes again, this time I convinced him to stay on the bunny hill while I took pictures of him & the big boys.

 

Some hours later Jeremiah dislocated his thumb…he had popped it back in place, but was still hurting, so I sent him to the first aid station.  They taped him up and off he went again.  About then James had finally worn out, so he & I headed inside.

I was basking in the glow of the warm lodge, sipping tea, knitting on a sock and visiting with friends when Jeremiah came running in…”Jonathan thinks he broke his arm!”  I threw on my coat, expecting  a long hike up the mountain to find my boy laying in the snow…instead he greeted me at the door holding his wrist, with his face twisted in pain.

One look at his arm and I knew it was broken.

We headed off to the first aid station where they put him in a splint and a sling for the ride to the hospital.  Dawn & I traded cars, keys & kids…there was no reason for James, Jordan & Jeremiah to hang out at the ER all night.

You never truly appreciate frost heaves and how bumpy a rural NH road can be unless you’re in labor or have a broken bone.  Jonathan & I can both attest to this fact…

As we headed to the hospital, I gave Jonathan the choice, Laconia was closer, but might be very busy so he might have a long wait.  Franklin was almost never busy, but was further away.  I knew he was in a lot of pain when he elected to go to Laconia.  As we walked in the doors I immediately questioned the wisdom of that choice.  The waiting room was PACKED and none of the people waiting looked injured…just contagious.  The nurse who checked us in took one look at Jonathan and said “Gunstock? Snowboarding?”  She recognized the cardboard splint and gauze sling, and apparently they see snowboarders in the ER 4 to1 compared to skiers.

With much trepidation we headed into the waiting room, not wanting to touch anything, or even breathe.  Thankfully we had barely sat down when they called Jonathan’s name.  A broken bone puts you at the front of the line.  The rest of the evening was a blur of x-rays, Doctors, Nurses, IV’s, pain meds, and procedures.
Jonathan had great doctors and male nurses, all of whom were amazed when they found out he was one of seven.  At one point before they set his arm, the Dr. asked him how much he liked the shirt he was wearing, Jonathan replied, “It’s one of my favorites”

“Well I guess we better not cut it off you then; besides, I’m guessing you’ve got some little brothers that will need to wear it one day”.  It was SO refreshing to meet a doctor who ‘gets it’.

Turns out Jonathan’s break was pretty serious.

A wrist fracture involving both bones, he snapped off the growth plate.  One of the bones was still in place, but the broken piece of the other one had slipped over the top of his arm and would require setting.  Very seldom has a doctor asked me to leave the room, this was one of those times, and I think I’m glad they did.  Jonathan was heavily sedated while they set his arm.  When I was allowed back in, he was all wrapped up in a half cast with his eyes at half mast.  Thankfully the meds they gave him also had an amnesiac effect.  He has no memory of his wrist being set.

As we bundled him up for discharge, his doctor had some parting wisdom, “Good luck, and just to warn you, it’s gonna be really hard to wipe your own butt for a while”

Funny, that’s what the EMT at Gunstock said too!

 

 

 

 

It’s Christmas Break, and Randy is off work, HOORAY!  Sadly the pond ice wasn’t thick enough before the snowstorm, so we had to head to a rink.  So we invited a few friends and loaded up The Mama Bus!

This is Lydia, who was Jonathan’s first babysitter.  She’s now a Mama herself with 2 adorable little ones.

Here she is with Cohen, her oldest, it was his first time ever ice skating!

John Jones wins the best hat award!

Katie surprises Jeremiah from behind.

Randy & Lydia catching up.

Big Kids

Daddies & their little girls.

The big kids had a blast!

Jonathan was hard to catch!

…most of the time!

Lydia’s husband Neil and their daughter Nell

Jessie, John & Jordan

Milk crates are a kid’s best friend!

Did you have fun Jessie?

As the kids get older, it gets harder and harder to figure out what to get them for Christmas.  I was nearly stumped until a couple weeks before Christmas when Jeremiah came into the laundry area and commented that he needed new t-shirts.  All of his were getting too short.  This is a real problem when a boy is 6ft tall and built like a flagpole…the mediums are too short, and large is going to be too…large…

He happened to be wearing a plain gray t-shirt at the time and asked for 5 more exactly. like. that. one…..

Ain’t no way I’m gonna look at the boy DAY after DAY after Day in the same. gray. shirt! And I minced no words as I told him so.

With this conversation fresh in my mind, I headed to Kohl’s to do some shopping, I had hit the jackpot and gotten the 30% off coupon!  As I was browsing the young men’s section, I discovered a sale rack with 2 different colored gray shirts…

An evil plan began to form…

I was now on a mission to find 5 DIFFERENT gray t-shirts. It took a bit of searching, and I did cheat by picking out one that was  long-sleeved.  Giggling mischievously, I wrapped each one in a different size/shape box.  For kids that are used to getting only one, or at most two presents from Mom & Dad, having 4 or 5 under the tree is phenomenal!

The 5th box I fiendishly labeled JRBM.

With 6 out of the 7 kids initials being JRW, you can imagine the intrigue that followed.  Speculation changed daily, with my favorite being “It MUST be mine, it stands for Jordan Richard Butt Monkey!”

On Christmas Day, everyone wanted to know who JRBM was and open that box first, I tortured them by not telling and insisting that it be opened last.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words…I have to agree…the pictures tell the story SO well!!

 

First shirt...he likes it...

 

Second shirt, he likes that one too...

 

Third shirt...he's beginning to suspect something...

 

Fourth shirt...totally cracking up!!

 

The fifth was the best of all!!!

 

Jeremiah with his FIVE GRAY SHIRTS!!!

 
Written by Jeremiah Wood

The great thing about your parents going out for the night is all the random things you can do while they’re gone.

Not really bad things mind you, just stuff that would make your mother shoo you out of the kitchen and tell you to get back to work. You know, like racing a ride on lawn mower and a wagon down a hill, or playing bumper carts with rolling chairs, or spinning each other around in an office chair and timing it to see how long you can stay on before you feel like you’re going to throw up1. These are just a few examples of course, and they are always in addition to the standard activities, like raiding the cookie jar, watching a movie marathon, and having a pillow fight.

Naturally you cannot do such things, unless you make sure to clean up the mess and make it look the same before your parents get back, otherwise…well nobody knows what happens otherwise, but let’s not find out.

On my parent’s most recent outing, I had a stroke of brilliance, which is not terribly uncommon for me, but I digress. I had the idea of cutting down a Charlie brown style Christmas tree, and putting it up in the living room as a joke. I got the troops into action and we began cleaning the living room to make room for it (see I’m a good boy, I voluntarily clean the house). When the house was clean it was time to get the tree. I turned to a minion and said “code: get the bike” 2 for those of you that are unaware, “the bike” is a bicycle with a small engine mounted on it, basically a cheapskate, red-neck moped. The only downfall of such a contraption is the fact that it has a tendency to wear through brakes. Since new brakes are so expensive (nearly $5 a pair, and they don’t make them like they used to either) I improvise, and make sure to wrap the current brake pads with a layer of duct tape before every ride (not that I need brakes, that’s what your boots are for, but you never know) With the brakes duct taped, I grabbed the remaining essentials, a rope, a saw (wrapped firmly in cardboard for all the safety Nazis), and a roll of duct tape and put them in a back pack. I was off, the bike sputtering and groaning at the cold temperature before roaring to life.

When I reached my destination a small ways down the highway (yes, I rode down the highway on a jimmy-rigged bicycle) I went to the business of selecting a Christmas tree. Keep in mind that I am not looking for a nice Christmas tree; I found several nice ones, but I was looking for an awful one. I wanted a tree so ratty and ridiculous looking that it would make people laugh and say “it’s hideous” since it was getting dark I had to settle for a less than desirable tree, it was a bit too nice looking for my tastes, but it would have to do. I sawed it down, tied a rope to the base of it, and started the bike. After a quick lap to get the bike warmed up, and running good (small engines are finicky you know) I tied the other end of the rope to the bike and started home. I was quite surprised by the fact that the tree dragging behind did not affect speed, only steering, as sharp corners were more difficult to maneuver. It is also worth mentioning the looks that I got from various drivers in the opposite lane. Apparently the city slickers were out in full force that night, because everyone was gawking as if I was some sort of freak, you would think they would have seen something as basic as a Christmas tree before!!!

I got home, and was pleased to see the house still standing, and find that everyone inside was still alive, and well  I wonder if that’s how my parents feel…hmm…no matter.)

Now in my haste and excitement, I forgot one small piece of essential equipment; gloves.

When you are riding a bike in below freezing weather they are quite necessary. So by the time I got home my hands were frozen stiff. Now I can neither confirm, nor deny whether or not I like to take artistic license with my stories, but I am being completely serious when I say that my hands were frozen stiff. I couldn’t even pull the lever to disengage the clutch, and I ended up simply hitting the kill switch. I stumbled inside, barely able to open the door, and began rubbing my hands together in effort to get some feeling back into them. I think I came close to getting frostbite, because it took a few minutes before I felt the blood flowing again. When I finally had use of my hands again, I brought in the tree, sadly it fared the drag home quite well. I swear it didn’t lose a needle the whole time. We set it up, and began stringing lights on it. Now I can do a nice job when it comes to stringing lights, but I wasn’t going for nice, I was going for awful. I think I achieved my goal, because it was the worst light stringing job I’ve ever done. The little girls threw (almost literally) a few tacky ornaments on the tree, and it was finished.

Now I wasn’t sure exactly what I expected for a reaction, but whatever I was expecting I certainly didn’t get it.

Instead of head shaking and exclamations of “get that thing out of here” They liked it, they actually liked it; my horrible, ratty looking Christmas tree that was dragged home behind a bike down the highway. I didn’t even actually want, or intend to use, and they like it. I would say “jokes on me” but it’s not, I’ll just find a better one and drag it home the next time they go out. Boys, get the bike!2 Now where did I put my saw…

 

 

 

1)      LEGAL DISCLAIMER: do not try these activities at home or anywhere…ever. I am a well trained professional Redneck with a PhD in dangerous activities and stunts, and a Master’s of Science in practical uses of duct tape. I am also a certified: tractor bobsledder, appliance destroyer (best in the biz), cow racer (neighborhood champion), and exterminator (kill it, fire, or nuke it from orbit). I am also a certified example of how NOT to make small boats and water crafts out of junk (I have references, trust me, they were wet)

2)      Paraphrased Mega-Mind reference.

Waiting for the big moment.

My brother Michael and sister-in-law Kim just happen to live in Colorado Springs and were able to join Teresa and her family for the big homecoming!

The moment Teresa laid eyes on her boy!

Proud Mom & Dad

 

 

 

Many thanks to all the generous souls who helped make this a very happy homecoming for the Burdge family!

 

 

While the rest of the nation focused on the impending hurricane last week, there was bigger news in the heart of one Mama in Oregon.  The long-awaited news that her son was coming home from Afghanistan in less than a week!  So many emotions swirled in her heart… joy, relief, pride, disappointment…

Wait, what? Disappointment?

What’s the one thing a Mama wants after hearing the news that her baby boy is coming home?

To BE THERE of course! To be the first one to lay eyes on him, wrap her arms around him as if she’ll never let him go. But this economy has been hard on everyone, and my friend Teresa, who had been months without a job, had FINALLY found work again. The sad reality was that their finances had been stretched to the limit after months of unemployment, and there just wasn’t the money in the budget for a plane ticket.

As a Mom, I cannot fathom what that must be like to know day in and day out that your son is actively in harm’s way for 6 months.  I don’t know that I would be able to sleep. The wondering, waiting, worrying, praying without ceasing, putting on a brave face for your brave boy, yet treasuring in your heart images of him in nothing but a diaper & cowboy boots with a pair of capguns slung low around his chubby little thighs…

Teresa’s story hit way too close to home for me…

I stand on the precipice getting ready to launch my first born.  He’s headed into law enforcement, so there is a very real possibility of military service in his future. I’m SO proud of the young man he’s become, he’s got an incredible future, but my Mama’s heart wants to slow down time just a bit. Where did the years go?

Not being the type to just wring my hands over a problem, I set to work.  Harnessing the power of social media, I sent out a midnight post on facebook (hidden from Teresa) asking that we all band together and buy her a plane ticket.  The response was instant and heartwarming.  By Saturday morning I had over half a dozen people wanting to donate, and a place for her to stay!

As much as I wanted to surprise Teresa, the details quickly became overwhelming and I knew I needed to let her in on my secret plotting on her behalf.  She connected me to her friend Andrea who is a travel agent, and we got to work on making this dream a reality. Andrea did some travel agent magic and came up with a ticket for only $565, which is still a lot for one person, but I did the math and realized that if I got 29 people to donate $20, we could change the world for one Mama desperately wanting to wrap her arms around her boy.

It’s an amazing honor to witness a miracle happen…

Absolute strangers opening their hearts and wallets to support a mother’s love for her son.  Living in NH in late October of an election year, it’s easy to get cynical.  The political signs littering the roadsides and yards, the constant ringing of the phone with yet another political plea or survey, the antagonistic partisan politics on facebook…You wonder why can’t we all just get along? Do we all really want such vastly different things? Or at the core does it all come back to each of us, as parents, wanting the best for our kids, hoping hard for their safety, pouring everything we have into making a better world for them in big and small ways?  As friends and strangers crossed party lines and opened their wallets to get past the debate on the war and military spending, past the partisan rhetoric and past petty disagreements about religion, politics, and healthcare, my faith in our future as a nation was restored.

By Saturday night, my fb chat was lighting up like the pledge board of a Jerry Lewis Telethon. The response was incredible!

So who donated?

  • Democrats
  • Republicans
  • Friends
  • Strangers
  • Military
  • Ex-Military
  • Anti-Military
  • Pro-Life
  • Pro-Choice
  • Pro-Family
  • Pro-Gay
  • God Fearing
  • Atheists
  • Agnostics
  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • College Students
  • Farmers
  • Professionals
  • Men
  • Women
  • City People
  • Country People

 

While the rest of the family battened down the hatches for Hurricane Sandy, I was busy with the hurricane of emails, fb messages and paypal notices.  Little by little, bit by bit, donations ranging from $10-$50 started to trickle in.  We were getting close, but as each minute ticked by, the fear of the ticket price jumping, or availability disappearing altogether was ever present.

And then the unthinkable happened…

One very generous donor offered enough frequent flier miles for the ENTIRE TICKET!  We were all speechless! This incredible act of generosity made it possible to not only get Teresa to Colorado, it also freed up the money everyone else had donated to go towards all the additional travel expenses such as meals, car rentals, etc.

It didn’t stop there… Even after it was announced that we had a ticket for Teresa, there were still big-hearted people stepping up to the plate and sending in money.  As Teresa packed for her trip, the news came in that the hurricane had delayed her son James’ arrival by a couple of days.  More scrambling by Andrea and her plane tickets were changed. Teresa’s new employer, Umpqua Bank has been incredibly supportive in giving her time off, including the last minute change of plans. In Teresa’s words, “Their motto is ‘The World’s Greatest Bank‘ and they are definitely living up to that statement!”

It was an amazing weekend…

I’m just a housewife from New Hampshire, but somehow I changed the world this weekend.  OK, maybe not the whole world, but I know it meant the world to one family.  And what is the history of the world if not the stories of many families? When that boy steps off of the plane dozens of Mamas across the world will collectively wrap their arms around him through the arms of his own mother. While the storm ripped the world apart, individuals helped patch it back together for one family.  How can you change the world for a family you know? And in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, do we need to wait for the government to act or can you do something to help ease the tragedy for even one of those victims?

James Slays the Oven Dragon

October 26, 2012

After 7 kids..4 of them being boys…you’d think I’d heard it all…

Not even close…

Our bathroom has been under construction for the past couple of weeks.  One night I was working on some of the final touches of getting it back together while the kids did the dinner dishes when I heard a sound I couldn’t quite identify…

It wasn’t a crash exactly, and not exactly a tinkle…

More of a cascading noise somewhat like a giant rainstick….but not quite…

The only thing my feeble little brain could possibly come up with was that perhaps the 5lb bag of rice on the top shelf of the cupboard had spilled all down the cabinets and onto the floor…but it was heavier than that, more the consistency of dried beans…and more like a 20 lb bag, which I knew we didn’t have!

WHAT WAS THAT?!?!

Ummm…

Shock & awe doesn’t quite cover the reaction one has when entering the kitchen to discover one’s oven door shattered all over the floor.  The stories vary, but near as I can figure James threw (or it slipped out of his hand) the can opener.

I’m still having a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that in the battle between a $5 can opener and a $100 oven door, that the can opener won.

It was one of those moments as a parent that you take a deep breath…a VERY deep breath and walk away.

Randy said, “I’m going into the other room to regroup” and I went back to organizing the bathroom.

It’s GOOD to have big kids. They took care of all the clean up while Randy & I tried to find our happy place.  Eventually Randy went back out, looked up the part online and ordered it.  Two days later it arrived, Randy & Jonathan installed it and I’m back in business.

And now I have one more thing to add to the list of “Things I Never Thought I’d Have to Say”….

Do NOT throw the can opener at the oven!

 

 

 

Chinese Moped Mafia

October 24, 2012

There are days when I think that I don’t really have anything to write about because life has just been humming along and I get caught up in the chaos of the mundane.  Then in the midst of cleaning out the bathroom cabinets, it suddenly dawns on me that there HAS been exciting things going on around here that I haven’t written about!

Jonathan & Jeremiah have motorized their bicycles.

Yes, you read that right, an engine on a bicycle.  They got the engines on eBay, and their friends Michael & Judah helped them with the installation.  Michael was the inspiration for this insanity as he has had one on his bicycle for some time.  The three of them have been dubbed “The Chinese Moped Mafia” (since the engines were made in China) and are working on code names.

Along the way they’ve learned a lot about small engine repair, and had a blast!

Mere words don’t do them justice, so here’s a video.

The road up to Weeks State Park, Lancaster, NH

The Fire Tower - Note how tiny Jenny is at the base of it!

The Mama Bus looks like a mini-van from this height!

The view of the house from the tower - Jonathan took this one.

Another view from the tower...on a clear day you can see all the way to Vermont!

The view from the tower was spectacular.

This disk in the tower was really cool, it told distance & direction to all kinds of places, including Montreal, Canada.

 

A mouse-eye view...through a drainhole on the floor of the tower.

 

 

 

Lovely Grounds

Breathtaking views.

Elegant bookcases in the Great Room.

Original light fixtures.

Gorgeous leaded glass windows - This also is one of Jonathan's pics.

The Great Room... taken by Jonathan

Another one of the Great Room, also by Jonathan, he's becoming quite the photographer!

Love the fall colors!

Sisters having fun!

Toothless club.

 

Taken by Jonathan

Jordan's very own trail!

Hiking back to the van.

Jonathan has a little shadow...

Have I mentioned how gorgeous NH is in the fall?

 

This is Madison

She’s part pug, part beagle, part lab, part stupid and ALL LOVEABLE!

I’ve been told more than once that I should write a book about her misadventures…at the very least I could fill a blog with her escapades alone.

The list of things that dog has eaten includes:

  • 1 truck

  • More shoes & stuffed animals than I can count
  • Several chickens
  • 3 air conditioners
  • Insulation
  • Siding
  • Drywall
  • Dog crate…

 

You get the picture. When we left on the Mama Bus Trip, she was so frantic to find her kids that she literally ate through the side of the house to come find us.  Any efforts to crate her were to no avail, she’s a Houdini Dog…and part goat.  She’s bent 2 choke collars to escape, and taught herself how to open the latch on the crate…and when we reinforced it to prevent that, she ate through said crate!

She chases cars, bicycles, an occasional chicken and has treed a bear (ok treeing the bear was really cool, but the rest…) She once got so freaked out by a thunderstorm that she went missing for 3 days.

If she’s SO much trouble, why keep her?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words…and I would agree…

For all her rottenness, she is LOVEABLE!

From the time Jenny was born, Madison claimed her as HER baby…

 

Protecting her

Tolerating her

Loving her

In short, this rotten dog is well-loved, and a special part of our family.

For the past week or so, she’s been a bit more clingy than usual.  Every morning she’s been in my face while I check email and moping about a bit.  We chalked it up to school starting; Madison doesn’t really understand when the kids have to hit the books and don’t have as much time to run in the woods.

Then yesterday afternoon, Madison came DASHING through the back door, trembling from nose to tail.  It was if all the neighbors had decided to do some target practice AND a huge thunderstorm struck AND 4th of July fireworks were going on all at once.

I’ve never seen this dog SO freaked out.

We checked her out, running our hands over her body & legs; there were no obvious injuries.  Next we checked her remote trainer collar…was it malfunctioning, or had some little person gotten a hold of the remote?  Nope, remote was on top of the book case and collar seemed to be functioning normally, nonetheless we removed it just to be safe.  She spent the evening hiding and trembling.

This morning, she was still freaked out…again I checked her over.  She was limping on her back legs, still very shaky, her left side seemed to be a bit swollen, and she refused to eat or drink anything.  Had she gotten hit by a car? Two of the kids had doctor appointments this morning, and people come before dogs, so she would have to wait.  That didn’t prevent me from worrying all day.  Had she gotten hit by a car?  Did she have internal injuries? Were we facing a huge vet bill, or worse having to put her down?  I put on my best cheerful Mama face, choked back the tears and moved forward with the day; all the while steeling myself for what could be a very long, difficult weekend.

We were able to get her an afternoon appointment with the vet.  As we recounted the events of the past 24 hours, the vet was as puzzled as we were.  Her temp was normal, and she didn’t seem to be overly sensitive anywhere.  As we talked about Madison and her recent activities, it came up that Jonathan had recently been diagnosed with Lyme Disease. Hmmmm…could it be?  They ran tests, and sure enough, turns out that Madison has Lyme Disease and another tick-borne disease.  We’re still not sure why Madison suddenly came running in yesterday, but the working theory is that while she was digging a hole out in the woods, she might have pulled a muscle, and came running to Mommy because she was hurt, and the Lyme disease made her reaction to the injury intensified.

Madison & Jonathan are now Lyme buddies and are taking their meds together twice a day.

We are so thankful that it’s something treatable and that we still have our precious rotten dog!

 

 

 

 

 

This Little Piggy…

September 23, 2012

Image credit

You’ve heard the story of The 3 Little Pigs, and the old standby, This Little Piggy Went to Market, now I’m going to tell you the story of our virtual pig that’s a real pig…confused yet?

This is a virtual pig…

Image credit

This is a real pig…

Image credit

It all started last spring when it was determined that the next animal added to our little farm would be a pig.  It was a tough decision between a milk cow and a pig, but in the end, a milk cow requires a larger barn, whereas a pig can get by on less, and I’m pretty sure that the determining factor had something to do with…

BACON!!

 

We have a few connections in the farming community, and began to make inquiries. 

Turns out that if you want a piglet, you need to come to the party early! 

By mid-spring, most piglets are already spoken for.

Then came that fateful Sunday when a friend at church approached us and inquired as to whether or not we had been successful in securing a small swine.  Sadly no, all of our previous efforts had been in vain.   Our friend had ordered two piglets; then discovered that his pantry was still full of pork, so he presented us with a pig for purchase.  Excited by the prospect of a piglet, we realized that we had no pen.  Not a problem our partner in pork promised.  It was not necessary that we actually take possession of said piglet.  The friendly farmer would supply our fair swine, and all we had to do was fund the feed.

We were welcome to visit our pig and bring him treats…which we did, but we didn’t have to remember to feed the pig, or clean up after the pig, or butcher the pig!  All we had to do was pay for the feed, the processing, and make room in our freezer.

He was the perfect pig!