Monday, July 29, 2013

The Church Potluck: A Lengthy Dissertation

The church potluck: if you have never been to one, I'll pray for you. You have my sympathies. I was just reminiscing about the wonder that is a church potluck. I mean, a good old-fashioned, cooked-by-farm-wives type of potluck, not the kind where there are all manor of supermarket containers littering the buffet. Growing up, our Loma church knew how to put on a potluck. There was always enough food for everyone to go through for seconds, or fifths. There were always soft, fluffy dinner rolls and slow-cooked beef that probably came from an actual cow, as in, a cow that someone raised themselves. Sometimes there would be a pig roast and that was the best. Someone would donate a pig and a few guys would camp out in our yard and start it in the middle of the night so it would be done to perfection just after church. Also at the potluck would be various dishes which would evoke proclamations such as 'Oh, did you see these! Nancy made her famous won-tons!' Hearing this would cause children and adults alike to mentally calculate which side of the table would provide a quicker path to the coveted dish. Woe to the man who shuffles up last in line, for his paper plate shall remain destitute. (Hezekiah 47:2) At a good potluck, you are also guaranteed to find at least three kinds of baked mac and cheese (not Kraft for heaven's sake) topped with breadcrumbs. If you are lucky, you might get the nice crusty part on the edge. It might even involve bacon bits. There will also be at least one crockpot (either rusty red or avocado green in color) filled with baked beans. These baked beans will likely not be the kind that Dad makes, and therefore not worth sampling. Unless you manage to get the chunk of salt pork, which has an odd way of making you feel like you won a prize even if it is a chunk of fat. As you move farther along the buffet line (cobbled together of prehistoric folding tables and covered with red and white checked plastic) you will find a variety of vegetable dishes. I can't vouch for the adults, but us kids skipped over that part. After all, parental supervision on a potluck line is lax at best and the dessert table calleth. After the vegetable dishes come a variety of desserts. There will be your odd assortment of gelatinous salads. I have never understood why Jello is categorized as salad or a dessert. It is not remotely healthy, unless you consider horse hooves to be good for what ails you. Perhaps the addition of celery makes it a salad? And in the absence of chocolate it can hardly qualify as a dessert. It was many a potluck I took the gamble on a Jello 'salad' and took a bite only to find that it harbored nuts, mayonnaise or celery. Fail! Marshmallows, however, were a suitable addition according to anyone under the age of 10. After the questionable Jello creations come the real desserts. These are not high-brow desserts ripped from the pages of Bon Appetit. No, these are your down-home recipes, ripped from the pages of Grandma's cookbook. The desserts may include a Jello Poke Cake (again with the Jello!), a least 4 pans of brownies, a chocolate cake with fudgy icing, a bundt cake, some cake that is dense and involves nuts and raisins (horrors!) and the obligatory package of hydrox cookies. Never real Oreos. Just the fake kind. If you have done it right, you should come to end of the table with a Chinet plate loaded at least 42% past capacity, with a fluffy dinner roll perched on top and your 'pre-dessert' tucked carefully next to your pasta salad (Debbie's pasta salad of course). Us kids sat at the designated kids' table which was usually located right next to the giant map in the Fellowship Hall that still includes the USSR. I would venture to bet than any kid at the table could find Bolivia in about 3 seconds since that map was often used to show us where our missionaries lived. Before digging in, it was necessary to set your plate down and go back for the beverages. And by beverages I mean two big coolers filled with red Koolaid and powdered lemonade. I think I drank enough Koolaid at the church functions of my youth to effectively pickle my insides for life. Once the Koolaid was procured, it was time to dig in. I would like to say we politely noshed while speaking of proper subjects like the virtues of obeying your parents but instead we spent time determining who could say the books of the Bible fastest or who could burp the alphabet. When we had eaten through most of the food on our plates, it was time to go through the line again. By now, the won-tons were but a distant memory, but there is a small square of enchilada just begging to be liberated from its Pyrex dish. The enchilada cries out for love so you give it company in the form of a brownie, two cookies and piece of coconut cake. That's how you suffer for Jesus. After eating dessert it is time for the children to run free and the parents to chat for hours. At this time, us kids would do things like roll quarters down the wheelchair ramp, sneak down to the deep ditch (since we skipped the discussion on obeying our parents) and swinging from the branches of the weeping willow in our yard. After a while, we might wander down the potluck line one more time. At this point there would be a few brownies left and half a package of the obligatory hydrox cookies which we would take and wash down with Koolaid. Then we would go back to playing until our pack of wild kids would whittle down to nothing. If we were lucky, our best buddies would be accidentally left at our house for an extra hour. Sometimes, their dad would go home to irrigate and when their mom went home, she would think the kids had went home with him. At some point they would realize that the kids were still at our house and come and get them. Then the party would be truly over, at least until the next potluck.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Eastern Cicada Killer Wasp

A few days ago I heard a blood curdling scream from the backyard. You know, the scream where you can tell there's an actual emergency, instead of, say, running outside to find that someone simple screamed because they heard the ice cream truck or saw a fire fly. Back to the scream, it was bad. I ran out to find James swooping in to rescue Katie. As he was wrapping his arms around her to hold her, I saw this winged beast in her hair. I yelled for James to back away but he didn't see the wasp and the combination of screaming and yelling sent him over the edge. He started to cry in panic. He was worried about his sister (for once!) and Tyler started crying because everyone else was crying. I had to grab this thing by the wing and fling it away. When the dust settled it was clear that Katie had somehow gotten in this wasp's way and it stung her finger. Poor thing, her finger swelled up and she kept ice on it for a long, long time. After we got her settled down, James and I went out to find revenge! The wasp was languishing on the concrete...maybe it was just as traumatized? I swatted it several times with a fly swatter but it was like trying to kill a hummingbird or something. Albeit a very nasty version of one. James got out his hammer and had to hit it four times to kill it! And take note, this picture was taken AFTER several whacks with a flyswatter and four hits from a hammer-wielding protective older brother! I can't believe how sturdy it is/was. Also note, that is a quarter for comparison not a dime. I am hoping that any interactions we have with these from now on are less traumatic.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Home, Home On The Franch

Home, home on the Franch,

Where the chickens and the kid-elopes play (half naked and eating peaches).

Where seldom is heard a quiet word (except when the kids are sleeping)

And the eggs are not washed everyday (nor are they all uniformly sized)

P.S. Rach, this picture is for you! Thumbs up!

Oh, give me a home where the buffalo kids roam to the "drive-up" window to get breakfast

Where the chickens and the kid-elopes play

Where seldom is seen a more beautiful egg collector

Or a more terrible songwriterrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

I would try to craft more catchy lyrics for you, but nah...I'll spare you. :)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

State of the Garden Address: Welcome To The Jungle

Here are a few pictures of the garden as it stands. We had a cool spring and then lots of rain. Two nights ago it rained so hard, it woke 4 out of 5 of us up. I have heard we got anywhere from 2 to 4 inches overnight in the area. Crazy! That is the reason that everything, weeds included, has grown to epic proportions. I can't really say if the garden is going to have epic yields though.

This is James' corn patch. The really tall stuff is Broom Corn, which is technically not corn. James made a hand broom out of this stuff last year at Farm Hands and wanted to grow his own. He is also growing a really pretty Indian corn and some beans. And least I think there are still beans under there.

James is burrowing into the tomato tangle to find a snack.

Where's Waldo? Can you spot James and Katie? They are both in there somewhere.

This is the monster pumpkin that so far looks like its all show. Either the pumpkins are hiding or this is going to make one massive snack for the chickens.

Here you can get an idea of how tall the broom corn is.

Proof that there is indeed something coming forth from all the foliage!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Random Pictures

 Jeff's new pair of jeans. I don't think we'll be sharing clothes any time soon.

Tyler was so tired he apparently couldn't be bothered to get all the way into bed. And when exactly did this kid get so loooooong?! He looks huge!

We made individual castles out of cardboard, then decided to tape them all together into a 'fortress' (thanks to James) I even rigged up a light in there. It was a blast. 

The kids dragged their blankets in there and snuggled up.

We read books and even conducted family night in there. We are reading the Tale of Despereaux. 

And a good time was had by all.

The tomatoes are finally coming in!

And the zucchini?! This guy slipped under the radar. I found Tyler walking around the house yesterday with this bad boy wrapped in his blankie, cradling it and giving it kisses. My kids are delightfully weird.

Monday, July 22, 2013

My First 'Race'

I ran my first 'race' yesterday which was technically not a race but whatever. The idea was to run 1.6 miles, each either a pint or a quart of ice cream, then run 1.6 miles back. I mostly skipped the ice cream part because puking in the bushes and being sick all day surprisingly did not appeal to me. I ran with a bunch of ladies from church/mom's group/random places and it was tons of fun. I found out after I signed up that I was the only 'real' runner and I use that term very loosely. Everyone trained to varying degrees, some for the running and some for the ice cream eating. :) Of our group, my friend Michelle who said she is 'not fast' finished first and I was 45 seconds behind her. There was a 'Pace Pig' running the race and when you finished you got either an 'I beat the pig!' or 'The pig beat me.' Michelle and I beat the pig by about 2 minutes! I heard people complaining that the pace pig was running too fast and I think I only beat him because he spent a little longer at the ice cream station, schmoozing people with his Scottish accent. A man in a pig outfit with a Scottish accent. What is this? The twilight zone? And on a side note, wearing bright pink tutus and pig ears apparently attracts people with cameras, because we got photographed for a radio station and the newspaper. There is a video here in the 'latest videos' section.

A Shirt For Tyler

 I just uploaded the pictures from my camera, all 100 of them! That means I will actually post real, live photos around here in the next week. These pictures are of the shirt I made for Tyler yesterday. I have two things to say: 1) it is totally loud, flashy and....loud, and b) I love it! It matches Tyler's little personality perfectly. He also loves it, which is even better! He actually squealed when he saw it this morning, which made me want to squeal too.

It has mis-matched buttons arranged in rainbow order. I have been wanting to do something with mismatched buttons for a while now and this seemed like the place to try it. 

I appliqued a little felt robot sticking out of the pocket which Tyler loves! He has little button eyes and free-moving rick rack arms. (Yes, I can even work rick rack into a boy's project, thankyouverymuch)

This is how most of the pictures turned out, even after bribing him with chocolate 'chippies'

And the only thing I can think of when I see this picture is the quote from Shrek "Five shillings for the possessed toy!"

Saturday, July 20, 2013

And Behold...

...the hot and humid breath of Satan is relentlessly breathing down on us. It has been obscenely hot and humid all week. So bad that even my hardy, all-weather kids go out to play and come right back in. We swam at a friend's pool this week and it seemed so refreshing. I checked the thermometer and the water was 88 degrees! Yikes! This weather better break before I do. My race is tomorrow and I don't want to run in an inferno.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Man Camp: Major Photo Overload!

Behold, the pictures from Man Camp. Technically called Northern Frontier and located in the Adirondacks of New York state.

The boys

James showing off a huge chunk of moss. The kid likes moss, and I am told this moss was really thick and plush.

Target practice. I secretly hope he inherits my Annie Oakley skills because that would just be fun. Except that there are approximately zero opportunities around here for target practice. I wonder if Chappy would allow target practice in his house like Grandpa Cheyney did?! Ha! I remember shooting down the hall at my grandparents house at something similar to this, but it was in a box that caught the pellets. I also remember many times shooting off our back porch at various pop cans, paper plates and whatnot. But I digress.

Playing around overlooking the Hudson River

The Hudson River: isn't this a gorgeous view?

Camp Boys

The cave: Jeff wouldn't go in (and he's not really scared of much) but James went back really far in the cave. Go, James!!

There was a steep drop off here and this guy was helping James get back to land.

Isn't this the cutest little salamander you've ever seen? I have a fascination with salamanders and newts. Weird, I know.

Evening on the lake (where James caught his very first fish!)

Standing in the woods with random stop sign

The waterfall they hiked to. 

James flashing his best look for the camera

Sliding down the rock

The climbing wall: James climbed clear to the top!!

Hobo stoves: each father/son team build their own and cooked dinner over it (hamburgers and s'mores)

Practicing archery: James was very excited about this but he had a hard time. I think he thought it would be the same as his little toy bow and arrow.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

James' Book Report

James came home with a seriously fat stack of summer work to do. And a pledge that he would log on to this reading website at least 3 times a week. Well, this should come as no shock to you but it annoys the heck out of me! Why does my kid need to log on to the internet to read?!?! Really?? I am considering being the rebel parent and saying NO! My kid DIDN'T read on the internet! and actually, so far he has only done it once. But, he has read a ton at home. And we read together. He even started writing his own book. One thing I did to encourage his reading (which really isn't necessary...the kid has at least a dozen books stashed by his pillow at all times) is to offer him $1 for every chapter book he read. First we established that Fly Guy may appear to be a chapter book, if you can read it in 15 minutes it doesn't count. He also has to write 3-4 sentences about the book, which may not include 'I read a book. It was good. I liked it.' (I never did that in school of course, just heard of people who did :) Here is the transcript of his second book report, unedited:

I read junie. B jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus. It was hollarys. her friend tells her that kids pour cholclat milk on your head. She has a teacher named Mrs. She called the firemen because she was guenna have a accsadent.

I think this kid is 'hollarys'!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Dad preached at church a week ago. Of course, on the day he preached I got summoned 5 minutes in because Tyler fell off the stool in the bathroom. They thought he was OK but he wouldn't stop crying for me. I went and picked him up and settled him down. Then we went to the lobby so I could attempt to hear at least 3 words of the sermon. (Note: when I was a kid....I tried NOT to hear even 3 words of the was my DAD after all **insert teenage eye roll here**) I was pointing out Chappy to Tyler through the window and tried to explain what he was doing. All of a sudden, Tyler realized that Chappy's voice was much louder than it should be considering he was in another room all together. He looked at me and asked 'How is Chappy's voice so loud?' I told him Chappy had a microphone on and that made his voice bigger. I showed him the speaker where it was being piped into the lobby. Once he realized that's where Chappy's voice was coming from, he looked up in wonder at the speaker, waved and said 'Hi Chappy!' It was pretty darn cute!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Random Ramblings of Ridiculousness

  • First of all: bullet points. The laziest blog trick ever. Remedies the need to come up with classy transitions between not-so-classy and completely random subject matter. Moving along...
  • Tyler. He has survived til his 4th birthday which I feel is a feat in and of itself. This past week we were at a friend's house (who hasn't been around Tyler) and I looked over to see him crawling across the top beam of their rather tall swing set. I told him to get down and he kind of froze and called for me to come help him. As I walked toward him he remembered he was, indeed, crazy loco and crawled back down himself. I went back to sit down and my friend said 'Well, now that you've had a heart attack!' And it struck me funny, because I hadn't even worried about it. It was all in a (Tyler's) day's work. 
  • This week Jeff and James went to what I call 'Man Camp' in the Adirondacks in New York. It was a Father/Son camp. They went kayaking, boating, canoeing (hello, boats!), caving, rock climbing, hiking, archery, target shooting and who knows what else. In other words, I considered shaving my head and passing myself off as someone of the male persuasion because it sounded really fun. I think the highlight for James was catching an 18" wide-mouth bass!! He has been wanting so badly to actually catch a fish. Apparently neither of them made use of the camp showers because James came home covered in enough dirt to plant 'taters. 
  • My garden has turned into an overgrown, hairy beast. With all the rain we have had, combined with my lack of time and/or mental capacity, it has become an lush forest of scantily-trellised tomatoes, rambling volunteer pumpkins and enough weeds to keep the chickens busy for weeks. I am taking a very laisse-faire approach this year. I'm not weighing anything, I haven't planted anything in succession. And there are probably monster squash lurking somewhere in the overgrowth. 
  • I took Katie and Tyler to Cracker Barrel for a 'date' last night. Tyler ordered a pancake and when she brought out the syrup, he proceeded to pour a little more than half on his pancake, think better of it and chugged the rest, straight from the bottle. My friend Erin pointed out that he really is the poster boy for 'Carpe Diem!' and she is right. Go big or go home is his motto. And due to his charm and cuteness, the waitress brought he and Katie their own bottles of maple syrup to take home. 
  • The dragon: everyone at VBS seemed to like the dragon. Someone (and not a kid!) actually requested the dragon and I thought he was joking. After all, it is a giant hulking mess of cardboard and trash held together with a metric ton of hot glue. I realized he was serious when he said he had space for it and wanted to use it for Halloween. His wife was not so happy and reminded him that they could 'just walk away, right now! We don't have to take it!' But he didn't. He really wanted that thing and as I was leaving I saw it wrapped in a tarp and hanging out the back of his minivan with various bungee cords securing the works. Just as well with me, because I never want to see it again!
  • There are two women at church who have horses/ponies, so this year during the picnic they gave out horse and pony rides. It was really a kick seeing horses at church and the kids loved it. Well, most kids. After waiting in line an obscene amount of time, Tyler (of all people!) freaked out and wouldn't go. Katie, however, rode the pony and had a lot of fun. I really wanted to somehow get in on the action and ride a horse but no one would give me a wrist band. Boo!
  • I have been informed that some anonymous member of my race team (ha, ha...I am running in a race. Fun run? Something like that...) as decided that since it is called Jog n' Hog and it is a pig theme, not only are we to suffer under the dubious moniker of 'Desperately Hoggin' Housewives,' but we are also to do it wearing hot pink tutus, bright pink tank tops and pig ears. I think I hear my mom calling. But hey, at least my shoes will go with the theme!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Scrumptious Beans, James' Farming Escapades and Circus Shoes

First, the scrumptious beans. James got out his old cowboy duds and dressed Tyler up. The kids have been really into playing 'Sheriffs and Robbers' or 'Indians and Robbers' or other such variations. I got the mini-cowboy to stop long enough to take a few cute pictures.

Here is the other cowboy, who has outgrown most of his cowboy duds. 

And here's the little cowpoke with his corn which is much taller than knee-high by 4th of July. I just read that New Jersey got a record amount of rain last month, more than any June in over 110 years. Yikes! 

Here are the boys with their new-to-them Capsela set. My brother had one when we were kids and I found a set at the thrift store which still works! 

And last but not least, the clown shoes. When my running shoes wore out I decided that whatever I got had to be brightly colored. Like obnoxiously bright. So I picked the pink shoes on the left. I think they are even brighter in person and I love them very much. Jeff was jealous and went out and bought his very own pair of flashy clown shoes. Actually they are special running shoes that are very unique and look highly uncomfortable to me. They have 4 bars on the sole that force your foot to rock forward onto your forefoot. They are so specialized that you have to ease int them, running only a mile in them at a time for the first couple weeks. Jeff actually runs carrying his extra shoes because he doesn't want to come home and switch because it would 'throw off his run and change the distance and yadda yadda yadda.' So if you see a 6' 4" flash of white lightning running around with glowing shoes and a spare pair just in case, you know who it is.