Thursday, December 12, 2013

Cowgirl Up

It's possible that I need to cowgirl up a bit since I live in the wilds of Montana now.

Fine, it's not technically the wilds, but it's quite a bit more wild than anywhere I've ever dwelt.  And I love it.  Really, there's something freeing about living here.  I'm not sure what it is, but I keep coming back to the fact that I can breath here.  That sounds odd, I know, but it's true.  I find myself breathing deeply and satisfyingly.  Perhaps I have an inner cowgirl that I never knew about and she's happy to be living on the frontier.

Yes, I can hear you.  It's not REALLY the frontier.  There's a town 10 miles away with a grocery store, coffee shops and gas stations.  I have neighbors and (what sounds really un-frontier-y) a Home Owners Association.  But it's a frontier-ish sort of HOA.  It coordinates use of the wells that bring water to our houses and has rules like, "Don't shoot guns on your propery.  We all live too close to each other."  And "Don't keep your yard trashy with run down trailers and cars on cinder blocks."

Ok, those may be my paraphrase of their rules, but really it just keeps the couple dozen houses in our little community being nice-country instead of trashy-country.  So I'm good with it.

Back to the point.  Cowgirling up.

First I'd like to point out:

The ways I've already cowgirled up.  

1. I've become like Paul Bunyan.  You can call me Paulina.

We have a wood burning stove in our home - just like every other house on the frontier.  We also have baseboard heating, but it was pretty obvious from the smoke above all the other homes that we were the only ones not using our stove to heat our house.  Since we had a woodshed with a bunch of chopped wood in it, we got a chimney inspector to come out and check out the stove and chimney that hadn't been used in several years, got the 'all clear' and started burning wood.

Can I tell you how cozy it is to have a little toasty stove in the computer room?  Right now it's behind me burning cheerily.
This is not the corner of my room.
Mine's has a carpet of wood splinters that I need to vacuum.
And I don't have a TINY dog the size of my shoes.

And how does this make me lumber jack-ish? Because most of the wood outside is too big for the stove, so each day I head outside... through the snow...with my the woodshed and chop them down to size.

Aren't you impressed?

You wouldn't be if you could see me do it.  Jason can do it with style.  He chops with authority.  Like a flying scissor kick to the wood.

Mine's more like a slap.  A hard slap.  Maybe a backhanded slap.

But still. I chop wood, people!  And even if I don't look quite as cool as Jason, I get it done.

2.  I make bread.

I know, this isn't very unusual and the reason I make bread is because my hubby gave me a Kitchenaid mixer that does all the kneading for me.  But I have made dozens of loaves from scratch since we moved.

This is sort of a lame point, but I couldn't just have ONE reason why I have already cowgirled up.

Why I still may need to cowgirl up a little bit more:

1. What to do with the trash?

We're too rural for trash pickup, but there are places around where there's a dozen dumpsters and you can dump your trash there whenever you want to.   Before it got cold I was wondering how best to deal with stinky trash.  My ideal answer is to put it in cans outside, but I can't because there's too much wildlife (see next point) and sticking it straight in my car would make the car stink, so it was stinking up the garage while I continually forgot to take it to the dumpsters when I went into town.

Anyway, I was at a little gathering of homeschool families and I asked someone what they did.  They just sort of looked uncomfortable and then mentioned the dumpsters that I already knew about.

Finally one mom said, "I dunno, we just burn ours."  Everyone looked relieved and nodded.

Apparently they just have some sort of trash container thingy and they just throw it all in and burn it.  Just whenever they want.   Willy nilly.  I'm still nervous because in Oregon we tried to do a little campfire (in our portable grill!)  and the neighbors called the fire department to report it.  Guess cowgirls don't worry about that sort of thing because no one else around here cares.

We don't have any trash burning container thingy though, so I'm just becoming better at using the dumpsters.  Maybe next summer when it's nice out in the evenings we'll all head out nonchalantly and burn the day's trash.

2. Hide the evidence

There is a good deal of wildlife around here.  Lots of low-on-the-food-chain animals like deer, so there are also some of the I'm-above-deer-on-the-food-chain animals.

In particular we've had some sightings of mountain lions nearby.

A few weeks ago one ate a dog a couple properties away.

Oooh! That's another thing our HOA does.  The secretary calls to warn us when there's a mountain lion in the area.  In fact that's really the only reason we've talked to her  She always begins with, "Well, you shouldn't let your kids out to play unsupervised, we've spotted another cat in the area..."  (I would like to note that I feel as though "cat" is a bit of an understatement, even if technically correct.)

Can we take a moment to discuss the mountain lion?  The first time we heard there was one in the area I kept careful watch on my kiddos and kept an eye back under the trees in the forested part of the property.
Because, yikes. Even surrounded with cheery yellow flowers.
Then, we googled mountain lions, and do you know what???  They're in the TREES, people.

Yes, they climb trees and lurk there.  Seeing as I'd been walking around under a LOT of trees, keeping my eyes peeled on the ground for mountain lions, that made me feel a little creeped out.  
Especially because that whole camouflage thing that animals have going?  It really works
One day I was out chopping wood and admiring the world around me.  I was almost done when something moved right next to the woodshed.  It was a buck. Antlers and everything.  
Seriously?  How long had that big animal been right there? They're practically invisible when they stand still.  
Does anyone think I'm actually going to spot the mountain lion before he pounces on me from a tree?  
My only hope is to try to slap him with my ax before he kills me.  

At the same homeschool gathering I was mentioning to one of the moms that I wasn't sure what to do if I saw the mountain lion.  Is this something for the police?  It seems a little heavy for an animal control officer to deal with.  Do I call the forest service?  After all they are the ones in the paper that are always trapping and releasing troublesome bears.

This woman looked at me with a little "Oh, poor city girl" look and said, "I'm more of the shoot it, bury it and shut-your-mouth kind of girl."

All the other moms nodded.


They did offer to come over and shoot it for me, but I'd have to help them bury it and be part of the keep-your-mouth-shut group.

So I guess if there ever is a mountain lion on our property (and if I'm cowgirl enough) I'll have to shut my mouth about it and you won't hear about it here... Sorry!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Part 2: Where We Are

Last time (so long ago it is all but forgotten...)I wrote about Part 1: Where We Were, so now it's time for where we are.

Oooh, except I need to tell one little tale about How We Got Here.  

Part 1.5:  How We Got Here

The move to Montana was weirdly smooth.  If you remember our pukefest move to Oregon, you may recall that it was not smooth.  Slimy, yes.  Smooth, no.

But this time was different.  

Between what history will refer to as The Great Purge (again, a whole different sort of purge than the last move...) where I did my best to empty our home of possessions before we moved and having several weeks more than we had expected to pack, we were in great shape.  

I could have pinned a picture of the inside of our moving truck to Pinterest and it would have gone viral.  It was that good. 

There was really only one possible glitch: the tow dolly. 

The tires on Jason's pickup were at the top edge of the approved size so there was a chance it wouldn't fit on the tow dolly behind the truck.  

No big deal, said we.  If that happens we'll just do a switcheroo and I'll drive the pickup and we'll tow the minivan.  

And of course, because that was the ONLY possible glitch, that is what happened.  

The truck fit width-wise, which I was excited about, but those strappy things that actually hold the truck onto the tow dolly were about 8 inches too short.  And that seemed significant.  

So we went through the rigmarole of moving all the things Jason had safely packed into his truck and crammed and smooshed and wiggled them into all the available space in my van.  Jason put the van on the tow dolly.  And it fit!  Hooray!  I even checked the strappy things and they fit beautifully.  

Then there was a strange clunking noise and when I looked at Jason he was just staring at me through the van window.  

I was looking around at the wheels and the tow dolly and wondering why he wasn't getting out when I realized what that clunk had been.  

Turns out my van rides low enough to the ground that if you tried to open the doors they hit against the side of the tow dolly. 

And the kids and I laughed because it was funny that Daddy was stuck in the van.  

Except it turned out that he really was stuck.  Neither front door would open.  Neither side door had enough room to open.   He was completely barricaded in the front seat by all our possessions. If he opened the window and climbed out, there was no way to put the window back up. Same problem with the sunroof.  

So many openings and no way to get out.

I kept laughing, but Jason wasn't laughing quite so much. 

So the final answer was he'd just have to climb out the back. Through the 6" gap between the TV box and the ceiling and through the gauntlet of the rest of our junk.  While we laughed but he did not.

Good times.  

The kids still randomly say, "Remember when Daddy got stuck in the van?" and everyone has a good laugh.  

Part 2:  Where We Are

Besides that, we did arrive happily and uneventfully in beautiful Montana.

And it really is beautiful.  We live 10 minutes outside the city and are surrounded by mountains and woods. (Perhaps I shouldn't call it a city.  Let's say town.  Unlike the last small town we lived in, this one has no Walmart and no fast food.  Both of which I consider to be perks.  My kids have only had fast food twice since September 1st.  Liam has even stopped asking for nuggets and fries at every meal.  It's a beautiful thing.  And yes, apparently you have to remove the fast food to 60 miles away before I stop giving in at dinner time and zipping through the drive through instead of cooking...)

There are deer everywhere and the little fawns have grown a ton over the months we've been here.  They're often right up close to the house.

Even when there's a superhero right at the window.

There are the most beautiful woods - right on our property!  You should smell the air here.  It's like a spa treatment for the lungs.

We also have the World's Creepiest Stump.
We wanted to put red glowsticks in the eyes for Halloween...but that stump is a ways out there.  In the forest.  In the dark.  Did I mention we have a young mountain lion in the area?  That eats pets at night?  And near Halloween there were bears? So let's all just imagine how cool it would have looked......  Ooooh!  Creepy!  Right?

And the stars.  Oh my heavens, the stars!  Just picture the most stars you've ever seen then multiply that by 1,000,000.  Um, you still better double that.  There are that many.  It's gorgeous.  So gorgeous that it makes highly educated people stand shivering in the cold, craning their necks up and saying, " so!  BAT!"  That last part was for the bat that kept dive bombing our heads.  Those things are so silent.  And flappy.  And REALLY hard to see in the pitch dark.

The Milky Way?  It really looks milky.  Seeing as the real reason I did rocket science in college was because I like looking at stars, not because I want to design space craft to go visit them, I'm in heaven.  Or maybe just below the heavens.

So hello from beautiful Montana.  Come visit us!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Where we've been and where we are

Ok, four blog posts in 2013 is pretty sad.  Especially since I have plenty of things to blog about.

Let me 'splain.  No there is too much.  Let me sum up.
  • We lived in Oregon.  
  • We moved to Montana.

Hmm, it is as I long suspected - summing up does not make interesting reading.

Unfortunately, if I put everything I want to say into one post it will be more of a novella.  So I think I'll do this in at least two posts (which will probably still both be long...).

Part 1: Where we've been and Part 2: Where we are.

Part 1:

Where we've been - Geographically

We spent 11 months in the lovely but wet state of Oregon.  It was nice.  When the sun shone it was very nice and there are good things to remember, especially from the sunny summer.

Geographical Place #1: Mt Rainier

Oregon and Washington are peppered with volcanoes. You'll just be driving along a highway, minding your own business when someone will gasp because suddenly, over everything else, there looms a silent volcano.

But we all know that it's the silent ones you have to watch.

They are simultaneously mesmerizingly beautiful and incredibly creepy.  Because you know they're just biding their time until they become this...

Geographical Place #2: Mt. St. Helens

This volcano is noticeably less beautiful than the last, eh?  That's because one sunny spring day 30 years ago it blew up and destroyed everything around it.  And they tell you that while you're standing at the base of it.  Things like, "The point where you are standing was incinerated 2.3 seconds after the main eruption.  Here are a bunch of creepy informational posters about all the people we know who died because the mountain suddenly killed them."

Thankfully the semi-morbid nature of the information was balanced by the fact that there was a plate on the floor attached to a seismograph that the children were supposed to stomp on.  "As hard as I can?!?"  Yes honey, stomp away.  Watch the needle move.  Or just stomp, because we all know stomping is more fun than watching needles.

Geographical Place #3: The Pacific Ocean
We did get to go to the beach quite a few times.

Dalton had fun in the waves.

In the ice cold waves.

I tried, but the ocean water was freezing the blood in my feet and then trying to send blood ice cubes back up my legs into the rest of my body.  I'm married to a doctor and I've watched enough TV to know that once that ice-blood reached my heart I was going to die.  I had to go back onto dry land.  For the good of my children.

Thankfully Belle and Liam wanted nothing to do with the water and someone had to supervise them.

Belle was in love with her swimsuit.  You'll notice that she's the only one not fully clothed.  I guess Belle's blood is unfreezable.

Liam often found deep sand pits that other beach-goers had dug.  Yes, I know his eyes are closed.  It's challenging to photograph a hyper 2-year-old at the beach.  This was the only picture out of 46 of them that even showed his face.  Picture big brown eyes and there ya have it.

And look!  Even a picture of Jason and me.  Unheard of, I know.  That bright light above me is my halo.  Those things just don't photograph clearly.

Three tiny big world.

Where we've been - Educationally

Educational Subject #1: Botany

We homeschool, so what do we do when summer gets a little boring?  Scour Pinterest for science experiments, pick the easiest one that requires minimal preparation, uses things from around the house and ends up with a pretty result.

Like dying white carnations by putting them in colored water.  How cheery are these?
image credit
These are some other family's carnations after a little time in the colored water.  People claimed to see colors starting within a half hour.  Hooray for quick gratification!

Listen up, kids, it's school time.  Flowers drink by sucking water up through their stems like straws!  Yes! Just like straws!

We bought carnations, made a gazillion different cups of colored water and waited expectantly.

And waited...

And waited...


And here you go!

What?  Can't see the colors?  Allow me to zoom in...

There!  Yes, there!  Blue!  Please tell me you can see the blue.  (Confession time.  That blue is seen by zooming in AND adjusting the color saturation in Photoshop.  But c'mon, I can't leave this as a total science fail.)

If we're handing out awards to the most colorful flower the real winner is the short one that actually fell under the yellow water.  Yes it's soggy but at least it's not white any longer.

So now my kids probably do not believe that flowers drink through their stems.  They clearly get water into themselves by being dunked.

Educational Subject #2: Zoology 

We went to the Wildlife Safari which is an enormous drive-thru-zoo.  It's like a 2 hour road trip through the African, Asian and American wildlands.

The highlight was getting to be this close to a lion.
(See the car window in the picture?  I think Jason could have reached out and touched her, although he declined my dare to do so.)  Those are some serious creatures.  She looked so beautiful.  But we kept saying how if she looked straight at us and snarled, we'd have floored it.

There were also bears in ponds...

..and giraffes on roads.

But the real danger in the place is this fellow.  

I'm not kidding.  The lions brooded, the bears lolled, the cheetahs paced, the tigers looked regal.

This peacock?  It walked up to our car, circled us, then chased and attacked us.  Smashed its deceptively delicate-looking head right into the taillight of my new minivan and cracked it.  Punk.  We actually had to drive away from it faster than the 10 mph we were supposed to be driving before it would leave us alone.   I would have plucked out his fancy tail feathers and made the kids turn them into quills as an art project if I'd known he'd damaged my car.  Or just tossed him to the lion.

Ok, that wraps up our summer.  Thanks for readin--OH NO, WAIT!  I forgot one thing.

Where we've been - Metaphysically

The house we lived in in Oregon was never homey.  Never.  We just didn't like it.  It was echo-y and cold and hollow and the whole time we were there we just felt sort of disgruntled with it.

Our second to last day there we were having dinner with the neighbors and they referenced, "Well, you know...with what happened in your house..."

Um, no.  We don't know.  What happened in our house?  Our house that looked like someone was fixing it up then at some point just whipped off the rest of the work and left it as is?

Turns out the owner's son was living there and fixing up the house...

...before he killed himself in it.

Really neighbors?  We lived there for almost a year and NONE of you brought up what was probably the most shocking thing to happen on the block since...I don't know...since Lewis and Clark came through?

So, if you don't believe in bad juju magumbo you can just be surprised that NONE of our chatty neighbors referenced this event.

But if our lives do leave echos in the places we live, then you can hope that the (painfully) noisy laughs and squeals and hollers of our children which happily echoed through the house for 11 months redeemed it a little so that the next residents might find it more homey.

Tune in next time for Part 2: Where we are.  

Friday, August 16, 2013

What's in a name?

Yes, you may have noticed a little bit of a lag in blogging lately.  And yes, a "little bit of a lag" may mean that I've basically dropped it completely over the last, um, year.  I have excuses, but only a few are good and none are interesting to write about, so let's just pretend I've haven't ignored this little patch of the inter-garden for the past season, chop our way through the weeds and move on.  I'll try to get back to posting regularly, but for now, here's a quick snippet.

To ease back into things I just must record some things both Dalton and Belle have said recently that have made me laugh more times than I can count.

One day all of us were outside playing in the hose and Jason kept teasing Dalton and soaking him. In an effort to tease Jason back, Dalton yelled, "Daddy, you are a moron with a cow!"

Which made Jason and I die laughing.  First of all, we'd never heard him say moron in his life.  And then "with a cow"?  What?

So we joked about it for a little while.  Well, actually we laughed and laughed and Jason and I called each other morons with cows for about the next, um, couple days.  But we did pull it together and after finding out Dalton didn't know what moron meant, we explained the word and that he shouldn't call people that and don't use words you don't understand.  You know, all the other good parenting things we had to say in an attempt to make up for our first response.

Which leads us to the conversation I had with Belle:

Me: "Belle, I know Daddy and I were laughing about it, but I don't want you to call people morons.  It's not nice.  Do you know what it means?"

Belle: "No."

Me:  "It means they are not smart.  That they are stupid.  So I don't want to hear you calling anyone a moron, ok?"

Belle shifting a little and looking confused:  "Well, ok, Mommy...But then what do we call the morons?"

And I died laughing and had to leave the room.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The glass ceiling

It was months ago when I posted about Belle's level of love for me compared to her dad.  I just can't compete.  The glass ceiling is real, people.   In our house that ceiling lies right below the level of her father.

Exhibit A: Our conversation while I was putting her to bed.

Let the record show that I was being kind and snuggling with her even after she was already supposed to be in bed and we'd been having a lovely time talking about Winnie the Pooh.

From a recording of Winnie the Pooh: "Oh, Bear!" said Christopher Robin. "How I do love you!"

Me, giving her a hug: Oh, Belle! How I do love you!

Belle, smiling back sweetly: Oh, Mom! How I do love Dad!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Jingle Belle

This post is preemptive in case you ever happen upon me and hear me singing some nonsensical tune.

I am not crazy.

At least not in the sing-nonsense-to-myself sort of way.

These days I sing nonsensical things for one reason and one reason only.


The girl has a future in composing pop music.  If pop music is still around in 2033, she'll be a millionaire.  She has SUCH a knack for inventing catchy songs.

Her debut song was "We are friends together."  Those were the only words but the tune was so nauseatingly cute that I was sure she'd learned it from Barney.  But no, apparently she came up with the tune and phrase in her own little pink brain.

I would putter around the kitchen crooning, "We are friends....together!"

Since then the words have gotten odder and the tunes much more catchy.

One of my very favorites is the rolling romp of a song that goes, "And it's always NIGHT on the moon!"  Those are the only words again.  It just repeats.  In its peppy way.  And I often find myself tossing laundry into the dryer to the beat of it .

Besides, those words really make me laugh.  It was WEEKS of singing it before the inevitable happened.  Dalton, who I though had a pretty good grasp of the whole moon-earth-sun relationship, stopped singing, crinkled his nose and looked thoughtfully out the window.  Then he said, "Wait a minute.  Mom, IS it always night on the moon?"

Funny in a gross sort of way
The winner for downright weirdest is the one she made up while she was waiting for someone to come and assist her in finishing up her toilet.  After her usual sing-songy call of, "MOO-OOOMMMM!  I POO--OOOPED!" I came upstairs to find her on the toilet singing quietly, "There's no one here to WIPE me!  There's no one here to WIPE me!"

I almost want to video her singing these so you can get them stuck in your head too.  Because I'd love to not be the ONLY person perusing the cheese selection at the grocery store while singing, "There's no one here to WIPE me!"

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Highs and Lows - mid-January edition

Looking back at last year makes me realize something.  I suck at blogging.  In 2011 I blogged almost once a week.  2012?  Only every other week.  That's not very often.  I realized that I blogged most often when I kept up on my Highs and Lows.  I also realize these are some of my own personal favorite posts because it's a great reminder to me of the craziness that went on around my home.

And it often makes me grateful that whatever caused my lows is usally something the kids have outgrown.  Kids growing up is wonderful.  Can I get an amen?

So here's some highs and lows by person:

High:  (Or more precisely, the chance of a high...)

I think that there MIGHT be a SLIGHT possibility that Liam COULD learn to talk soon.


Because we've been convinced that he's never going to.  After all he's almost a teenager and he doesn't speak.

Alright, fine.  He's 17 months old but he honestly only has ONE real word.  Mama.  And that is recent.

To be fair he also says "bye bye."  But instead of b's he uses d's.  So whenever some is going away he yells, "DIE!! DIE!!!"

Which, I think we can all agree, is not very friendly.

He won't even repeat words.

Me: "Liam, say doggie."

Liam: "Enddggaggoao  moooommmmmmmssfflkj.  gnk"

Me: "Liam, say Belle"

Liam, "Gaagggooddnnnngllskk.  gnk."

Yes, he always ends with the 'gnk' sound.

But yesterday, while Medman was trying to watch football (which is a low we Bronco fans are NOT going to talk about) and had tried about a dozen friendly things to get Liam to stop poking him in the face, he said, "Liam, go away."

Liam looked at him seriously and said, "Away."

Shocked silence.
I motioned enthusiastically at Medman to say it again.

"Go away."


"Go away!"


Exciting, no?  Don't judge our parenting.  I'd say in the grand scheme of things learning to speak outweighs whatever short lived emotional scarring will occur from both his parents eagerly telling him to go away.

Since then I am pretty certain he has tried to say ball and when I tried to read the Thomas book to him at naptime today he did hollar "ELLLLMMMAA" while pointing at the (wordy and boring) Elmo book he wanted to read.

So, stay tuned for the day I can officially make this a high because he is consistently trying to talk.

Low:  That day is not here yet.

Belle and Dalton:
The other night we let Belle and Dalton do a sleepover.  (By "we" you know I meant Medman thought of it, right?  Does ANYONE think that the mom came up with an idea like that?  No, that has "Fun Dad Idea With Possibly Terrible Ramifications" written all over it.)

Oh me of little faith, because they did really well and had a blast.  Their two rules were No Fighting and No Jumping.  I don't think we actually had to do the No Fighting rule.  Any time those two have gotten to sleep in the same room as each other there is nothing but hysterical laughter for hours.

In fact, next time they're bickering in the middle of the day I think I'm going to declare it Sleep Over Time and send them both up into Belle's room.  Hours and hours of ceaseless laughing.

Belle is the child who will wake up at night.  You can dance toys on Dalton's head while he sleeps and he won't stir.  Really, we have videos.

But Belle sometimes wakes up.  So around 3:15 am she woke up and apparently needed me.  So she started crying for me.  Which woke Dalton up (wow).  From what I can put together, their conversation went something like this:

Dalton: Belle, what's wrong?
Belle:  I have something to tell mommy!
Dalton:  You should tell her in the morning.  (Do you see how smart my boy is?)
Belle:  I can't possibly wait until morning!!!! It is so very important!!!! I MUST tell her NOW!!!

Since Belle religiously follows the "Don't Get Out Of Bed At Night" rule, she used her imperial power to send Dalton in to our room to let us know she had something to tell me.

When I entered the room, she began a very Belle-ish tale.

"Mommy, before I went to bed tonight - this night, the one where I put on these blue footie pajamas which are SO WARM and COZY and I love so much more than the monkey ones - before this night - but after it had already gotten dark even the part of the sky that was still yellow for a long time after dinner - at the beginning of THIS night I saw a train.  But you didn't.  And I had to tell you that."

About 8 words into this I noticed that Medman had followed me in.


I patted his shoulder and said something encouraging like, "You got this," and went back to bed.

When Belle wakes up at night, if she really wakes up she ends up talking to herself for about an hour before going back to sleep.

When Belle also completely wakes up Dalton the two of them chatter to each other for TWO HOURS until their mean mom comes in and declares that if anyone makes even one single sound they are going back to their own beds.

Judging from the next day it is much more difficult for a mom to be up for two hours in the middle of the night than for a three year old and a six year old.

Hope everyone had a lovely holiday season!

Anyone have any highs or lows they want to share?

OR anyone have any grand ideas on getting a kid to talk?