Monday, October 27, 2008

Halloween Table Runner

Here is the table runner I started in August and finally pushed myself to finish just in time to enjoy for 5 days before Halloween. This was a stash project where I used only fabric I already owned without going shopping. The orange with the big bats would not be my first choice for a background fabric. At least it's bright and colorful and the kids like it! Plus I spent money only on the thread for the project!

Friday, October 24, 2008


We lost our kitten this morning. The sensors on our garage door are set too high for kittens and the last person to close the door didn't even know anything was wrong. This morning I went looking for her when she didn't run up as I was letting the dogs out. It was a suprise even to the dogs.

As I sit here typing it amazes me that I really didn't want this kitten. She came at an inconvenient time and our road is so busy it's not a good place for cats. We loved her. We loved her from the very first day. She and Jazz bonded after Zowie had her puppies. From out of nowhere she would attack Jazzmine. Jazzmine would gently play with her and always I was amazed since the kitten was smaller than Jazz's head.

Sam was in total kitten love. He carried that kitten everywhere with his little arms wrapped around her middle and her front and rear ends dangling. And she let him. She even sought him out. Her cute little white and seal nose would twitch and suddenly she'd start attacking the drawstring on Sam's pants or chasing dust glimmers in the air. He didn't even hear me the first time I told him she was gone. Afterwards he went out looking for her and we had to tell him again. I could see when he understood and it makes my heart hurt more than losing the kitten did.

Chris is wandering around muttering, "but she never got to grow up." I have to agree and join in saying that it isn't fair. It's absolutely not fair. He loved to cuddle the kitten while doing his reading work and just this week he set up a study area in his room that has toys for Kitten to play with. Chris never did agree to the name Goofball for the cat. To him she has always been Kitten.

Jake is worried about our other two cats. I think Dave just took him out to the shop to check on them. Tigger and Wolfie came to us when their owner was allergic to them and it was either us or the shelter. We haven't spent as much time with them since they were full grown when they got here and they live in the shop out back. Dave never wanted a cat in the house and has campaigned pretty actively to keep them away from the house and yard, relegating them to the shop and pasture.

Gosh, I miss that kitten. She fit in so well with our family. I'm not convinced there are any other kittens in the world who would trust my children and our big dogs the way this kitten trusted us. She was special. Someone didn't want her and dumped her here. I didn't think we wanted her either... for about an hour. Today I wish more than anything that we could have had her forever. My heart HURTS and even knowing our life was richer for knowing Goofball doesn't make it hurt less.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

New Addition to the Family

This afternoon I whipped together a new addition to our little family. Originally I planned to give her away as a baby shower present but I've been informed by my oldest son that he thinks she will miss Leslie (his small stuffed rabbit) and the stress of the afternoon has caused New Green Bunny to take to her bed. I actually had to grab this rabbit and run in order to take a picture.

Next time I make one I think the ears should not curve outward. A nice teardrop shape would work better. It's hard to see her mouth in the pictures, but next time I'll remember to embroider the mouth before I stuff the silly creature and most likely a darker thread would show up better. Chris really does like her mouth pink though, he says that real rabbit lips and noses are pink.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pay it Forward

How do you recognize religious truth? Is it true if you hear it from a member of the clergy? Is it true if you read it in the Bible? Is it true if it comes into your conscience while praying? Is it true if a ranking church official tells you it's true? How do you recognize religious truth?

I was taught always to question. Always questioning makes it hard to subscribe to any one religion. It does make it easier to listen to other people's religious truths and keep an open mind- after all, they may have true revelations to share. Do you suppose there is any one church that knows all the answers?

I always pictured God's truth as a pie (probably an apple pie). That pie has to feed many people, and it is a continually replenished dish. Any religion you can think of has at least a small piece of that pie. None of the religions have a monopoly on pie. Where religious issues get sticky is that each church adds some of their own toppings to the pie. After all, apple pie surely should be served a'la mode. But then again, some people prefer their apple pie with sharp cheddar cheese. Some like the pie hot, others cold. Once in a while you find enterprising gourmets who drizzle fresh caramel sauce over the apple pie and ice cream. Delicious, wonderful enhancements. But how do we separate the enhanced toppings from the simple goodness of the apple pie God gave us in the beginning?

The extra ingredients get all tumbled together. The dessert may be palatable in any form, but we tend to begin thinking that apple pie a'la mode is the only good pie. After a while we forget that in the beginning there was just pie. God didn't serve it with ice cream, we added that ourselves. When we forget who added the ice cream we begin to condemn those people who eat their pie with cheddar. They aren't as apple pie-ish as we are. Their truth isn't our truth. What we really forget is that God already gave us the truth and we chose to add to it to make it more palatable to us.

I have great respect for people of faith who live their convictions. I have no respect at all for people who profess their convictions but don't live them. In the thirty-three years I have lived on this Earth I've met many people who wanted to "save me." There were people who preached their faith to me. There were people who sent missionaries to preach for them. There were people who "invited" me to their churches. There were people who educated me about the consequences for my eternal soul if I didn't believe the way they did.

And then there was Genaura. She wasn't the only person I met who helped shape my faith (in a good way), but she is the one who stands out most in my memory. Genaura had a deep and abiding faith. I did not know that because she said, "I have a deep and abiding faith." I knew that because she woke me up at 5:00 in the morning to secretly plant pansies for the old lady who lived on the corner. I know of Genaura's faith because I once tried to pay her back for a ride back home from school and she instructed me to do the same for someone else when I had the opportunity. She never used the words "pay it forward. " She lived her life "paying it forward."

As a college freshman I was a much more negative person than I am today. My outlook was pessimistic. I didn't particularly like other people, especially women. I analyzed the worth and quality of everything (material and philosophical). Always, I was searching for the flaw, the impurity. I could not see without judging.

Eventually there came a time when I couldn't sleep at night because my mind just would not turn off. All night long I lay in bed weighing the events of the day. One evening I went into Genaura's room to visit. She was writing in her journal. I asked her about it, if it helped her sort out her day or did she just chronicle her day? Her answer changed my life. Her answer changed the way I saw the world, and God, and my place here.

Gratitude. She journaled gratitude. It was the last thing she did before going to bed. Genaura kept a gratitude journal. When I thought about my day, I chronicled all that went wrong- all that I could have done better. When Genaura went to bed she chronicled all that was good in her day. She never mentioned the bad. Her end of day routine was all about remembering to be thankful and showing gratitude to God for the amazing day she'd gotten to experience.

We lived together. Some of classes had the same professors. We shared some friends. Our days were not that different. The way we saw our days was absolutely different. I saw trials and injuries. She saw wonder and light and opportunity. In the end, I saw God working through her.

I've met many "Christians" who believe in good works. They believe good works are required, commanded by God. Genaura believed that Jesus died for us, no strings attached. If you accept the gift YOU ARE SAVED. In gratitude you pay it forward and help others while expecting nothing in return. You are saved. Pay it forward.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Normal? What's normal?

Normal is a relative term. I think we (my family and me) are fairly normal people. I think most (but not all) of our friends are fairly normal people. And then there are days like today. There are days when you have to mind your tongue, not because you're afraid of offending, but because you will literally freak somebody out if you respond in your usual fashion. Not only do you have to mind your tongue, you have to change your vocabulary, just to help others feel comfortable. And... I'm not good at it.

This afternoon one of my new 4-H members brought his rabbits over for me to look at. He just enrolled at our last meeting and is totally new to the whole 4-H thing. He's had rabbits for a little while but really doesn't know much about them. Most of the resources you find that aren't published by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (A.R.B.A.) or through a university press are not worth the paper they're printed on. There is a tremendous amount of garbage being advocated by "pet" rabbit people who have neither the experience or education to back up their recommendations. Unfortunately, my willing young 4-Her did not find information from the good reference sources.

He's had a very educational year. His doe died this summer due to heat stroke. She had three week old babies at the time. The boy and his family bottle fed them. They did have a friend who knew enough to sex the babies and they got the doe in the litter seperated from the bucks. Then they left the buck in the same cage. Bucks are territorial. They fight once they reach maturity. One day the boy went out and found a testicle laying on the cage wire. When they examined all the bucks they had very swollen testicles (sorry about the graphic nature of the post, but the 1 reader I have probably skipped back to the puppy pictures by now anyway).

They took the rabbits to the vet. He diagnosed vent disease (without really examining them or running any cultures). The vet prescribed three doses of penicillin one week apart. This is a good way of eradicating vent disease. If your rabbits have vent disease and didn't just castrate each other. The same vet has been charging the family around eighty dollars a month to clip teeth on one of the bucks. His angle of bite is incorrect and rabbit teeth grow forever. A rabbit with malocclusion will die of malnutrition if the teeth aren't trimmed regularly. It takes about two weeks for the teeth to be overgrown after you clip them off at the gumline. It's not a condition that's really compatible with good quality of life for the rabbit.

The mom asked me for advice. I'm afraid that my first response (inside my head) was... kill them. Oops, I mean cull them (which means... kill them). At that point, just as I was opening my mouth, it occured to me that maybe this family (with four kids) needed a more tactful approach than an out and out recommendation to do away with their rabbits. So, I told them I'd do some research and get back to them.

And here is where I begin to really understand that to some people I may seem a little weird (Amy, don't even think about it). I spent a couple hours the next Saturday morning on the phone to my mother and another rabbit breeder/microbiologist in Moscow. I'd already done some research on my own. Really, I wanted them to confirm that we should cull the rabbits before I told the family. I truly, truly enjoyed the conversation I had with the Moscow rabbit breeder. We spent over an hour and a half debating whether treponema cuniculi could survive in a wood cage over a period of months. It's anaerobic so I would guess that if it dries out and doesn't have a host it can't survive in the environment. Then we discussed that if there were a disease organism present it was most likely to be pasturella multocida. You can treat and cure an infection caused by treponema cuniculi but pasturella multocida always comes back when an animal is stressed. Both are highly contagious. Pasturella multocida is the big bad of bacterial infections in rabbits. I can cause everything from a respiratory infection that easily turns into pnemonia, to abscesses, to hemorrhagic septicimia, to genital infections. It's nasty, has 98% morbidity and isn't truly curable (although you can send it into remission). Of course it's also endemic (meaning you could pick it up anywhere and many, many rabbits without symptoms are carriers.

The gist of my thought is... I had a pleasurable time researching and talking diseases and bacteria with my friends while putting off the time I needed to tell this poor boy he should really see about introducing his bunnies to their place in the food chain.

Today, they brought the bunnies to see me. I very tactfully asked the boy (after noting the malocclusion problem) how much money he made every month (he's eleven). Then I asked him if he wanted to learn how to clip rabbit teeth using wire cutters. Then I suggested that maybe the rabbits quality of life wasn't so very good that he shouldn't join the food chain (think Birds of Prey Raptor Breeding Program in Kuna, ID). Wasn't that tactful of me? I thought it was quite good considering my skills in tactfullness compare to a bulls gracefullness while trampling through a china shop.

While examining his other bucks I found that the one who was missing some of his dangly bits had some serious nasty stuff going on with his other male parts. His life was never going to be the same (I'm not sure how he could pee). The last of the bucks looked pretty good until I noticed he had drool marks under his chin. It doesn't seem like much, but drool's the first sign that a molar (in the back where human eyes can't see) has broken. The mom told me she noticed the drool shortly after she separted the bucks (after the castration incident). A broken molar usually occurs after someone drops a rabbit on the cement or they bang themselves around in their cage (usually during a thunderstorm or dog attack). So... Dave had to "cull" all three bucks.

Now I'm wondering how long I need to wait before I can bring out the skulls with malocclusion at a 4-H meeting. Really, how could I pass up the opportunity to use these wonderful specimens as educational aids? I'm just not sure if an eleven year old boy would think they were cool... or if his little heart would hurt. Knowing that my own son would think it's cool to see the teeth and the structure of the jaw reminds me that "normal is a relative term."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Puppy Update

There don't seem to be many controversial words in my head lately (haven't been paying attention to politics) so I've fallen behind on my blogging. The major event still occuring in our household is puppies. Yes, puppies qualify as an event. Especially when there are 11 of them. They are still healthy, active, and beautiful. Our neighbors (whose dog we borrowed) are going to keep a boy (thank goodness, since there are 9 (!!!) boys in the litter). They also think the police department may want to buy one of them as a drug detection dog. A few of their friends are also interested in hunting dogs. It leaves me wondering, if they find homes for half the litter (not an inconsiderable feat) do I give them a finder's fee? Do I buy them dinner? Do I just say "thank you" and run with the money? What would you do if it were your neighbors and your puppies?

Christine finally found my blog (but didn't comment). She later told me that I need more recent pictures. So I am going to fill the rest of my blog this evening with current family pictures. Sorry, there aren't any of me that don't show a horrendous double chin (obviously the camera added something there) and my husband makes himself scarce when the camera's out so you'll have to be happy with pictures of the boys and dogs.

It is really hard to take a picture of big dogs when they keep following you.

Pay no attention to the chocolate smeared all over Sam's face. Please. These are pictures from birth day.

Good thing we have a large pool for the puppies. Notice the classy plastic lawn furniture arranged around the pool for viewing convenience.

Finally, here are the puppies today. Sorry I didn't get any kids in the picture so it's hard to see how much they've grown. By this time next week everyone should have their eyes open and they'll be well on their way to becoming holy terrors (just like the rest of the family). Enjoy them while they're small and sweet and have no teeth.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I don't know if it's the years or the miles...

Today my youngest child turned three. I remembered his birthday sometime Friday evening. Somehow I think the "Mommy of the Year" is going to bypass me again this year. It's not so much that I forgot his birthday, it just snuck (sneaked?) up on me. One day it was October 9th, a few days later it was the 11th... the time in between is a bit blurry (and no, I wasn't drinking... this month). We threw together a dinner party in his honor, invited the family (although only grandparents could attend on such short notice), made cake, served ice cream, and a good time was had by all.

If we only had one child it would be so much different. I remember Chris's first birthday. It was amazingly organized. I set the party date a couple months in advance. The invitations were designed on the computer using MS Publisher. It was a dinosaur theme. I decorated the cake myself. It was homemade carrot cake baked in a dinosaur shaped pan. The cake was delicious and it was a work of art. You should have seen it. The color scheme for the evening was green and orange (to go with the dinosaur theme... being a 4-H Program Coordinator involves some event planning, don't ya know). The dinosaur was green with orange spikes. He was some of my best cake work ever. I made treat bags for all the kids we invited to the party.
We used the good china. I think we may even have used the silver (the real silver silverware, not the stainless steel silver colored silverware). I served homemade raspberry lemonade in an antique glass pitcher. Secretly I marveled over how simple it was planning and throwing kid's parties. I wondered why some moms just gave in and served food from the freezer section (value added product) and glopped store bought frosting on a cake mix cake. I mean really, how hard is it to just put together a simple homemade party?
Fast forward seven years. Can you believe I didn't even think about setting a date for the birthday event until 2 (!!!) days before the kid's birthday? Not only that, I didn't even decorate. There was no party theme, no decorations (unless you count the chair where I piled presents as grandparents arrived), no color scheme, no good china, no silver, no antique pitchers (although I did serve pop out of a plastic bottle). The cake started it's life in a box on the grocery store shelf. Jake came out while I was cleaning the puppy pool and crumbled one edge (about 8") of the cake into a bowl to eat while he was waiting for me to return to the kitchen. I just put extra frosting on that side.
One question that keeps returning to my mind is: Are people with multiple children different than people with no children or only one child? I think they are, which leads to another question: Were these parents different before they had more children? Or did having more children change the parents? I think the children changed us. If Chris were my only child I would not be the woman I am today. If Chris and Sam were my only children I would not be the woman I am today. If I have three more children I will not remain the woman I am today (and really... heaven help us all!). Life's experiences shape us. Things I believed to be vitally important seven years ago (like color schemes for birthday parties) don't even register on my radar for importance today.
Some stuff I thought might be nice (like visiting one on one with grandparents) I now find incredibly, amazingly essential. Keeping a set schedule, providing party favors, decorating the cake with a set pattern (you know, so you can tell that white blob of whipped cream is a puppy instead of an inkblot)... it doesn't really matter. Having our family with us to celebrate Jake's birthday, that's much more essential. Relaxing and enjoying the day instead of stressing over whether the invitations were mailed with the best looking stamp... much more important to my children.
P.S. That pink cake is a Raspberry Cake. All Jake wanted for his birthday was Raspberry Cake. We've never eaten or made a raspberry cake before (at least not that I can remember) but it was his main request. This recipe has raspberry jello powder as well as a package of frozen raspberries baked in the batter. It is more violently pink on the inside than it is on the outside. The frosting is whipped cream mixed with a package of frozen raspberries. The whipped cream really tones down the color. Just in case you were wondering it was delicious :-)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ezekiel Bread

I was looking through our latest Taste Of Home magazine when I came across a recipe for Ezekiel bread. Most of the bread eaten in our house is homemade. New recipes are frequently examined in an attempt to find the best bread recipes ever. This recipe was prefaced by a note from the person who submitted it:
"If your Bible's handy, read Ezekiel 4:9 to find the inspiration for this recipe and its title. This tender, chewy, mulitgrain bread has a hint of sweetness."

I looked up Ezekiel 4:9.

"Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. You are to eat it during the 390 days you lie on your side."

Ok, that doesn't sound bad. Of course this particular recipe only calls for wheat flour, wheat germ, and bread flour. That might seem multigrained to some people. It is however a far cry from the multigrain loaf described in Ezekiel 4:9.

But wait! It gets better. I believe that if you're looking for scriptural inspiration you really need to read the whole passage to get a feel for the meaning of the verse. So, let's take a look at Ezekiel 4:9-13.

'Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. You are to eat it during the 390 days you lie on your side. Weigh out twenty shekels of food to eat each day and eat it at set times. Also measure out a sixth of a hin of water and drink it at set times. Eat the food as you would a barley cake; bake it in the sight of the people, using human excrement for fuel. The LORD said, "In this way the people of Israel will eat defiled food among the nations where I will drive them."'

Mmmm. Boy that sounds good. I think I'll go bake some bread and eat it in rememberance of Ezekiel 4:9. Or maybe not.

Friday, October 10, 2008

How did we get so old?

It finally happened. And I was suprised. Last night was our first meeting in the new 4-H year. We've been with this club long enough (going on 3 years) that we're comfortable there. Chris and I have made friends in our group (not hard to do when there are 70+ members). Most meetings are uneventful and predictable. But last night was the first meeting of the new year.

The first meeting is the meeting when all of the leaders put out their project sign up sheets (I'm leading rabbits, cavies, six easy bites, and cake decorating... yes, I have gone crazy... years ago). The extension office sends prospective new members our way. The new members attend this meeting and frequently it's the first time we've ever seen them.

Last night as I was manning my little section of the table, I heard my name. K'Anne (the cloverbud leader) was telling a new mom that I'd be helping her with the project this year (darn it, K'Anne! I'm just not good with the littlest kids... especially when they're mine). I turned to greet the new member and her mom. The mom looked a little familiar (but I'm not particulary good with faces... I could have seen her as I entered the room and then later thought she looked familiar). I studied her for a split second and then she smiled and said, "I thought those eyes looked familiar! I know Janet!" And I looked at her a moment longer. Oh. My. God. I am so old. It was bound to happen. After all we're in 4-H... which means my child is old enough for the program.

It wasn't so bad (once the initial shock wore off). Brenda's always been friendly (a little too put together for me to be totally comfortable with, but nice). She's intelligent, good with children, creative (and hey, her mom owns a quilt store... that can only be a good thing), and someone I used to show horses with, judge horses with, do horsebowl with, attend teen conference with... you get the idea. Anyway, it wasn't so bad until she said..."Wow! It's been, like, 20 years!" And she didn't have to round up much to estimate 20. Twenty. And now we have kids taking the same project, in the same club.

I'm really quite excited (did I mention her mom owns a quilt shop? and that she's good with kids, creative. Did I mention her mom owns a quilt shop). What I'm really thinking this morning is... she would make a way better co-leader for the cloverbud project than I would. Isn't that exciting to all potential cloverbud members in our club? (Have I mentioned that the littlest kids aren't really my cup of tea?). However, 20 years still seems like an amazingly long time to me. How did we get so old? I've been an adult for 15 years now. My contemporaries have children doing things with my children that we used to do. Parenthood is a wild ride, and it's only getting crazier the older my kids are.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Motherhood is for the dogs

This afternoon Sam's preschool class is going on a field trip to the park. His teacher asked if I'd come along as a parent volunteer and of course I jumped at the opportunity to work with my middle child and get to know his friends from school a little better. Chris and Jake made arrangements to go visit Grandma and Grandpa Anderson and there was talk of pop drinking and candy eating. It was going to be a glorious day!

About 11:10 we started getting ready to go. The kids found their shoes. They put on their brand new socks (purchased yesterday). I kept hearing whining. The kids were in the living room fixing their shoes... nope.... none of them looked unhappy. I started looking for Goofball (the new kitten). Nope... she and Jazz (Sam's black dog) were not at loggerheads. Then I heard it again.

Wouldn't you know it!?! There she was... on my bedroom carpet... whelping puppies! We've been watching since last Tuesday (when she a had a bit of false labor) wondering when the puppies would make an appearance. Everything I've read tells you that your bitch will go off her feed before she whelps. Zowie ate everything in sight this morning, and yet... there she was... in all her glory... on my bedroom carpet.

Chris and I got the 4 puppies we found in my room moved to their pool in the shop. Zowie eagerly followed us out. I called Sam's grandparents and school to let them know we would not be there today. Then we waited. In the shop my children have a setup that looks like a pool party going on. The swimming pool (where Zowie whelps and we keep the puppies the first two weeks) is in the center of the floor. There's a door behind her and shelves to one side. Ranged around the rest of the pool are lawn chairs, blankets, water bottles, a huge bowl of dogfood, 5 or 6 rawhide retriever rolls, newspapers, old beach towels, and a large mug of tea.

Sam brought the tea. He very assuredly tells me that, "Mommies need tea," At this point Chris and Jake returned to the house to watch cartoons (Yea! No school! Mom's busy! Quick, get the potato chips before she comes to check on us!!!). Sam spent all afternoon in the shop, sitting in the pool, patting Zowie's head, saying, "It's ok Zo, good Zo, look at your puppies Zo," He calmly places clean towels over the cold, wet towels. He helps struggling puppies find teats. He watches to make sure each puppy born gets cleaned and dried. When Zo starts pushing and I'm not there he calls out to let me know she's having more babies. What an amazing 4 year old Sam is! I absolutely love that he would rather stay with his whelping dog than watch cartoons! It's amazing that he calmly, gently, quietly supports the dog (when others might run around making noise and stealing puppies). No day at school would have taught him more. No teacher or classmate would have presented him with an opportunity to really care for a living creature today! Life's lessons frequently are not learned in a classroom and we are so blessed that today we had the option to choose which environment we'd spend our school day in. It is a glorious day!
**10 puppies and counting.
**11 puppies at 3:45pm

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I have way too much help typing

We have a new kitten. She was across the street from our house last Friday evening crying as if her whole world had come to an end. I didn't know what to do with her. We're expecting a litter of puppies any day now and certainly don't need to add another animal to the mix at this point. I tried everybody I could think of on Friday night... to no avail. No one would shelter a poor, innocent kitten until a new home could be found for her. I knew... even as I chose not to throw the poor, yowling kitten back outside where she would certainly be run over on our busy street... I knew... a kitten who spends the night in a house full of young boys would not be finding a new home. Now I have way more help than I need whenever I try to use the computer.

Jake camping in the living room

Jake camping in the living room