Sunday, June 28, 2015

Adventures with Backyard Chickens

When people toss around the phrase “Empty Nest Syndrome” never in a million years did I think I would be filling that nest with actual birds…chickens to be exact.
I have looked at the cute little chicks in the local farm stores for a couple of years now and wondered about bringing them home so I could raise my own farm-fresh eggs. I even bought a book called “Backyard Chickens” by Martha Wyse, which I didn’t actually read until I was on the airplane during spring break. My husband Tom read it too and what we discovered was that there is a lot involved in raising chickens and that it is not something to be taken lightly. This book describes the good, bad, and ugly in regards to raising chickens (Pasty butt condition anyone?)  So after reading the book we decided that maybe chicken farming wasn’t for us. Then Tom talked to a guy at work who said “It’s easy! Just build a coop and let ‘em go!” And we were off. Now we have this really excellent coop and Tom has made a big feeder and watering tower.

We are learning as we go along. First of all we learned that if the coop box says “5-7 chickens” what it really means is “3-4 chickens” because while 7 chicks fit nicely in our coop, when they got to be what we call “teenagers” it became quite crowded and we had to adopt-out 3 of our girls. Second, chickens smell and they attract flies…lots of flies. Fortunately there are hundreds of blogs that literally answer any chicken-related question you might have. is a good one. I learned that you can sprinkle a neat mix of herbs in their roosts to keep the bugs away while old-fashioned fly paper is a necessary evil for the ones who continue to come around. I also planted mint and lavender around the coop, which should help too. And did you know that you can train chickens to come when called? You can! You use chicken treats (a.k.a. birdseed and dried meal worms). However, if you are going to feed the girls treats you need to remember that they have to have grit to digest it. This revelation resulted in a panic-stricken run to Gruler’s to get a bag of grit. Also, chickens, like children, get bored and peck at each other if not kept entertained.

Probably the most surprising thing we learned was that we wouldn’t bring home the chicks and wa-la! We’d have eggs. Nope, they apparently don’t start laying for about 6 months. I’m still not sure what pullets, brooders, or bantams are, but I’m learning. We are enjoying our new adventure with Gerrie, Betty, Lola, and The Brown One. Even though they haven’t filled our empty nest with eggs yet, they are helping to ease the transition into sending our boys into the world with a new adventure.

Friday, June 5, 2015

When did I Stop Taking Pictures?

Order senior pictures-check.
Reserve township hall-check.
Order invitations and mail-check.
Finish party menu and order food-check.
Make a memory book and posters of embarrassing pictures-wait…almost a check?

Sammy will be graduating on May 31st and I am doing the usual Mom stuff of party planning and decorating. I have made a special memory book as a graduation gift for both of my boys with various pictures of them growing up. Sammy was looking through his book and said, “Why are there only pictures of me until I’m like, 12 years old?” Um. Well? That’s a good question.
            “Because that’s when we stopped taking pictures of you.” There. I said it. I actually didn’t stop taking pictures of him, or Robby for that matter. I just stopped using a camera. The invention of the camera phone has taken the place of my scrap booking hobby and the picture-taking of each and every moment along with it. I used to take pictures just because I had a great idea for a “layout.”
            “Oh! Let’s go to the playground! I have some really cute paper and stickers to go along with the pictures!”  Now I wonder if it’s really worth using up the phone memory before I capture that precious memory.

From the time I got a camera phone and shortly after that, a Facebook account, I have really taken a minimal amount of pictures other than the “Oh isn’t the cat cute?” random ones. At sporting events I have let the moms with the good cameras take the action shots that I pulled off of Facebook every now and then. I have a few pictures of our trip to Florida in 2012…on my phone, pictures of Robby’s graduation…on my phone, and things I’ve crocheted or, again, cute pictures of my cats, (also on my phone). When it was time to get pictures of Sammy pulled together for this album, there really weren’t many from the past 4 years. I don’t even print pictures anymore unless I absolutely need to. I email, Facebook, and text pictures if I want people to see them. Facebook is my new scrapbook. Look at pictures of my life and then scroll down and look at pictures of other people’s lives…and their dinners.

I remember when I got really heavy into my scrapbooking phase I panicked thinking that I would have to do it for the rest of my life, because I couldn’t just have these fabulous scrapbooks and then go back to the old fashioned pocket albums! I thought I had really gotten myself locked into something that would simply never end. Little did I know that with the invention of that wonderful thing called a camera phone, that my inventory of stickers, stamps, ribbons, and beautiful paper would collect dust in the basement. So get used to it boys. If you want to see anymore pictures of yourselves you’ll have to check my Facebook account under “Pictures of You.”

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Epic Battle of the Furnace

Every year around this time Tom and I go head-to-head in a battle of sorts.
It isn’t a battle about the children, pets or vehicles. It isn’t even a battle about the toilet paper roll (a battle going on for the past 20 years, it will not end soon and it will not end well). The battle I am talking about is the battle of the furnace.
Shortly after we returned from spring break, “click” off went the furnace. It was a beautiful Easter morning with snow gently falling while my teeth chattered. What is going on? Wait. Let me guess. I went over to investigate and sure enough, the furnace was off. So, I quietly turned it back on … and up.
My husband, Tom, is a hopeless optimist, especially when it comes to spring. He simply cannot wait to ride his motorcycle or grill stuff on his super-deluxe grill. As soon as the Easter snow melted, the winter coats were boxed up and the doors propped open.
“It’s 40 degrees out!” I protested.
“It’s spring!” he grinned. “Boys! We’re getting the deck furniture out of the shed!”
Then it snowed again. I considered posting an apology on Facebook since it was our premature placement of deck furniture that caused a round of flurries. Once again, I found myself wearing fleece pants, double thick Christmas socks and bootie slippers. Once again, I checked the furnace. “Doggone it!”
And “click” I turned the furnace back on.
This past weekend it was relatively warm, but not the 70 degrees they promised us.
I unloaded and loaded the dishwasher Saturday morning and thought to myself, “I should be warm, but for some reason I’m not … well, whatdaya know?”
You guessed it. The furnace was off again. This time it was a little more understandable. It had been a really warm week, but we have such a well insulated house it can be pretty warm outside. But, it will be nose-cold inside.
Since Tom was working in the garage I took the opportunity to check the furnace, find it turned off, and turn it back on again. When he came back in and heard it running I said, “Don’t you turn the furnace off, it’s freezing in here!”
Later I went into town and came back to find Tom out on a ride. Gosh, my feet just wouldn’t warm up even after I put on my super warm socks and a sweatshirt.
The furnace was on … or was it? Nope. Off again. So I did what I always do and turned it back on.

Our little battle is usually a friendly one and fortunately, like many other things, reminds me winter is on its way out along with my fleece pants, double-thick Christmas socks and bootie slippers.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Being a "Wrestling Mom"

As I sat in the stands at the MHSAA Individual wrestling finals waiting for my son Sammy to receive his medal, I looked over to see the parent of another wrestler wearing a sweatshirt that read "I can't Keep Calm, I'm a Wrestler's Mom." That really hit the nail on the head for me. I've seen a lot of shirts and bumper stickers over the past 12 years that attempt to describe what it's like to be the mom of a wrestler, such as:
"Wrestling Mom" This one sounds like the mom actually wrestles her son or maybe other moms. That's definitely not me, although I've seen some who look like they could.
"The only thing tougher than a wrestler is his mom" I certainly don't feel tough, as I sit in the stands with my heart pounding out of my chest and my palms so sweaty I have to wipe them on my jeans.
"I can handle anything. I've watched my kid wrestle" I actually own this T-shirt, but every time I take it out to wear it I fold it up and put it back, because watching my son wrestle has not really ever made me feel like I can now handle "anything."

The truth of the matter is that wrestling is an extremely difficult, stressful, nerve-wracking sport to watch, especially at the high school level. Watching my little first, second, third grade son wrestle other cute little guys was fun. But when he's facing off in what they call the blood round, wanting more than anything to advance to the next level, and I can do nothing but hope and pray that he does it, the feeling of helplessness is incredibly stressful. That's my son on the mat, alone, with no teammates there to jump in and assist in what seems like the battle of his life, for those six minutes. I even have to admit that I've sat through many matches with my eyes closed because it was just too hard to watch.

Yet I love the sport of wrestling. It is a sport unlike any other. It builds, strength, stamina, endurance, determination, focus, and perseverance. I've been watching it since I was in high school and I'm sad that this chapter in my life is over. I want nothing more than to someday sit in The Palace again and watch my grandchildren compete in the state meet, wiping the sweat off of my palms and yelling stuff like, "Run it!" And "Settle back!" (Wrestling lingo for "Pin that kid already, will ya!"). I'll have the familiar knot in my stomach and will most likely be wearing a sweatshirt that says "I can't Keep Calm. I'm a wrestler's Grandma"

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The One About the Yarn

I'll be the first to admit that I have a problem. In fact, if you are a regular reader of this column you'll recall that I admitted to my Chapstick dependence without hesitation. Actually this is one of those problems that I've been able to keep somewhat under control because of limited space and my cats. The problem I'm talking about is my yarn collection. It starts innocently enough. I find a cute pattern on Pinterest or see something that I think I can make. So I walk the aisles looking for just the right yarn. I will find what I'm looking for but wait, what's this? A new soft multi-colored, self-striping yarn that would make the cutest infinity scarf! Before I know it I have an armload of yarn and a head full of ideas. Like I said earlier, my problem with buying all of that yarn I want is a lack of places to put it all that's out of reach of my cats, who love nothing more than to destroy a full skein and leave it all over the living room. So I have my yarn carefully tucked away here and there throughout the house. I also have a problem with good intentions. Thinking that yarn I just bought would make something cute and actually making that cute item are two completely different things. If you were to come and ask me about my inventory of yarn I would be able to tell you exactly what I plan to make with it "someday." And yet the yarn keeps coming. My friend recently posted on Facebook that she had acquired a large quantity of yarn and was looking to get rid of it. "I'll be right over!" I messaged within minutes of seeing the post. By the time I had gotten there, she had taken out what she wanted and had given some away but still had enough leftover to make blankets for the entire population of the U.P. Now that's what I call a problem! I, of course, had to help her out by taking two large bags of yarn off her hands. I honestly come by this naturally. My Aunt Bonnie has a bonus room filled wall to wall, floor to ceiling with fabric. My mom has an entire walk-in closet devoted to her fabric collection. So really, if you put it into perspective, all I have is one Tupperware box, a small cardboard box and three large bags of yarn which comparatively, is almost no yarn at all. And I currently only have 3 unfinished projects going. So as I said, I'll be the first one to admit that I have a problem and if that problem develops, I'll let you know.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Singing the Praises of Online Shopping

I jumped up from the couch and sang a little song that I made up. It goes like this (with no real tune), "Awesome! Awesome! Christmas shopping is over! That's Awesome!" One thing in particular that I love about living in the present day is online shopping. I love it that I can have 3 stores open at once and never step foot in any of them. I love it that I don't have to haul 6 bags around a crowded mall, breaking out in a sweat because I decided not to freeze my butt off and leave my coat in the car since I had to park in the back 40. Ten months out of the year I love traditional shopping. I love the smell of the stores and I love the little bags with handles from Bath & Body Works and American Eagle. But as soon as November hits, literally the last place I want to be is in a department store or mall. In my middle age I have developed a sort of pushy-people, not sure what I'm getting anybody, anxiety. It's the same kind of feeling I get when I'm in the pet store with all of the un-caged giant birds flapping their wings and screeching "Hello!" at me. Online shopping has been a Heaven send for me. I can sit on my couch with a cup of coffee and take my time. I know who likes which kinds of jeans and I can order them with the touch of a screen. If one store doesn't have them I search for another store without warming up my car. I can flip back to my email and remember to plug in that code that will save me an extra $20 off of my order. I can use credit or Paypal. What's even better is that I can order something right when I'm thinking of it, and then I can search for it until I find it like I did with that random motorcycle part that I knew Tom wanted. Oh I know some of you already have me pegged as an anti-Christmas grinch with my fake tree and the fact that I put off decorating until some actually notices that I haven't done it. But the beauty of being me is that I knew that, yet I still did it that way pretty much guilt-free. Christmas morning was still great because nobody cared how those gifts got under that plastic tree. We all had something to open and it was a lovely day surrounded by family and pets. And now as I reflect on that lovely day I can focus on my newest venture, song writing.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Happy Birthday Sesame Street!

“Well, what do you know? It turns out I’m older than Sesame Street,” I said to Tom the night that PNR printed the story about Sesame Street, (probably the first show I remember watching), turning 45. I never even stopped to think that I might be older than the show that helped me earn a badge in Brownies by teaching me to recite 1-15 in French. This same show taught me those same numbers in Spanish as the children I babysat watched the Hispanic version when we moved to the Lansing Area. What kind of childhood show causes an adult of 46 to hum “do doo da doo doo” every time she hears the word “phenomena?” My children watched Barney when they were toddlers and I can guarantee you they don’t sing “I’m the elephant elevator operator!” every time they enter an elevator! They did watch Sesame Street for a short time when they were young, but it really didn’t seem to be the same. It was a different generation and the target audience didn’t seem to be my Upper Peninsula bred, dinosaur-loving kids. Even though they don’t have the same fond memories it doesn’t stop me from thinking of Big Bird’s giant nest whenever I would see that eagle’s nest on the billboard somewhere near Alanson. Cookie Monster with his googly eyes, who only ate cookies (NOT vegetables! I’m sorry, but that’s just wrong), and Grover were friends of mine. And I loved to count with the Count. I’m even old enough to remember SS before there was an Elmo. I am also a person who was impacted by the life lessons that show taught me. I mean, doesn’t everyone my age know that you should NOT eat crackers in bed? Thank you Bert and Ernie. I don’t even think I would ever use the word “grouch” if it hadn’t been for Oscar. Not to mention calling my kids “Oscar the Grouch” at times. I had some real life friends there too. Maria was probably my favorite human on the street. I can still hear her voice talking to her Muppet neighbors. I can also hear Kermit the Frog singing “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” Even after I became too old for the people in my neighborhood (the people that I meet each day), I never felt too old to sing “One of these things is not like the other. Three of these things are kind of the same.” to my classroom full of second graders. Does it make me feel old knowing that I’m older than Sesame Street? No it doesn’t. In fact it’s quite the opposite.  I want to say Happy Birthday to a show that impacted my life in more ways than one…cookie.