Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pa Pa Pa Pa Pa Pa

Tucker is REALLY into his Pa Pa. Helen and David have been in town for an extended stay and have thoroughly spoiled both Tucker and I with the number of days they whisked our little boy off to Beau Pre. After a couple of days of their undivided attention, Tucker started running around asking for Pa Pa at every opportunity. (Incidentally, he also calls pretzels "Pa" so sometimes he may have been asking for pretzels, but mostly it was Pa Pa). Having Pa Pa around was terrific leverage for me as well ("if you put on your shoes we can see go and see Pa Pa..." etc.). We're still working on Tucker saying "Henny," though.

On other name fronts, he occasionally says "Jackie" around me. It sort of sounds like Spanish pronunciation: Ya-kee. He put on my sunglasses this morning and walked around saying "Ya kee, Ya kee." It was funny.

He has also started saying "What's this?" and bringing us things or pointing. I am very impressed whenever he pulls out two word phrases, or two words in a row... not very often yet, but I've heard a few.

He also loves to imitate us, of course. The other day Austin was spitting into our bathroom sink, and Tucker mimicked him and spit three times. It was very amusing, but not necessarily something we really want him to know yet.

Oh, and FYI, it takes more than two days underwater to kill my cell phone. After successfully drying out from being submerged in Tucker's water bucket, I placed a call on it this morning. Crazy.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Dear Tucker

Dear Tucker,

I love your spirit of playfulness, and your desire to try new things. But Mama does not like it when you put her cell phone in water and leave it there until I discover it two days later. Cell phones don't need water to live.

Speaking of water, not all water can be played with. We don't drink Ben's water. Ever. We also don't empty all of the washcloths out of the drawer and dip them one by one into the toilet water. That is gross.

Well, my boy, that sums up my parental advice for today.



Thursday, May 28, 2009

Practicing the Presence of People, quote 3

"Rushing is anxiety in motion."

"Try editing your days; craft them to sing concisely like memorable lines of poetry."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A book too good to finish

Okay, I know that title doesn't make any sense, so bear with me. I started reading the Memory of Old Jack by Wendell Berry and had to stop less than three chapters into it because it was just TOO well written.

Seriously. Some days you just can't handle such a powerful, beautiful tear-jerker.

I frequently put books down without finishing. I give them a 50 page test (sometimes more if I'm feeling generous) and if they don't capture my attention, they're goners. This is the first time that I've stopped a book because it's too good.

Wendell Berry is amazing. His fictitious Port William series speaks so deeply and poignantly about community, roots, place, identity and time. Those books have more truth in them than any non-fiction book I've read trying to address the same subjects.

And yet, with the truths he writes about comes so much sadness. I can handle a tearful ending, but this one started out so beautifully sad, that I was crying by chapter 2. It's about an old man getting lost in the details of his past as the present blurs in his failing age. The losses and joys of generations get woven together in this old man's narrative, till your heart just about breaks for this old man whose whole world has slipped away.

It's impossible for me to read a book like this without seeing my life flash before my eyes like his. It makes me look at my young family and think how soon this precious time will change.

And yet what this book does (and what the best books are capable of), is it compresses time, so that you are dealing with all the joys and sadness and change of this community and this old man's lifetime all at once. I am so thankful that this is not how I have to experience my life. It is sensory overload to try to absorb it all at once.

I am also thankful that real life comes at a person so much slower, and with so many more mundane details, even if it contains the same change and tragedy and love and loss.

Memorial Day BBQ

We had a BBQ on Monday for our non-existent Bible Study this year. The people in the Study exist, but the events of life conspired to make us bat about 4 for 30 in terms of the number of times we met. I think we might have a better contingency plan for next year, live reading Evening Prayer together in lieu of a trained Bible Study leader.

In any case, it was a fun BBQ. Actually, to be correct in terms of the Southern use of language: it was a fun cookout. We didn't actually eat BBQ, though we did talk about the merits of Virginia vs. North Carolina vs. Tennessee BBQ varieties. I am a cultural philistine in terms of BBQ, so I have a lot to learn I'm afraid.

There were five crazy kids in the under-4 category which provided very good entertainment. Some of the highlights:

*One little boy played fetch with another boy. He would throw the tennis ball and the other would retrieve it. Again, and again, and again. The one retrieving the ball has a fascination with dogs, which made it resemble the canine game even more.

*Tucker decided to consolidate all the other kid's lemonade into one big cup. Then he brought it over to another boy to give him a sip, though the end result was that he basically came over and gave the other boy a lemonade bath. Henry was a bit surprised, but was a good sport.

*Henry is turning into quite a dare devil. First he tried to ride this little push car down a set of steep steps, then took to marching around the fence of our large garden... I think maybe he thought if he kept marching around, the Walls of Jericho would fall down?

*The oldest child, a little girl, went to see the chickens upon arriving. There was one egg that she eagerly collected... and then proceeded to hold for about an hour. It was only when we were sitting down to eat that we noticed she was still clutching her treasure.

*Later in the evening, Austin took her dad to see our old well, where you can take the cover off and look down the hand dug, brick walled hole all the way to the bottom. She wanted to look too, and then told her dad that she really wanted to go down into it. Hmmmmm....

*I thought one of the funniest things on the adult side of things was our friend David describing his best job in Northern Virginia, one that was super hard to pry himself away to come to our area. Keep in mind that David is a religious historian, who just graduated from seminary. What was this job, you ask? Manager of a martial arts school. Bizarre.

Signing off for now....

Practicing the Presence of People, quote 2

"Religious types are always asking, 'What is God saying?' But what are people saying? Once I confronted a well-known Christian leader with his alcoholism. He wouldn't listen. He said that before he'd believe me, he'd have to hear it from God. Meanwhile his wife as telling him how much she hated his drinking; his children were telling him; other friends were telling him; and I was telling him. But no, he was waiting to hear it from God. Relationships--even bad ones--speak loud and clearly. Listen to them."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Practicing the Presence of People

I just finished the book Practicing the Presence of People by Mike Mason. Overall, a good book, though I have to say it got a bit long by the end.

Over the next few days, I'm going to post several quotes that struck me as particularly insightful. So here goes:

"Believing that people are good will not make them so, but it will issue a powerful invitation. By having faith in people, we dramatically increase the odds that they will actually behave well and grow in virture."

Chickens are mean little things

Three of our baby chicks have died. One was stolen out of the coop by a mysterious predator. One flew over the divider that separated it from the older chicks and either died of a heart attack or was killed by the older chickens. And now, the small little bantam barred rock was killed by the other chicks.

Nature is cruel.

Austin just gave the chicks some treats (watermelon and cantaloupe rinds) and gave the chicks an evil eye. Who would've thought they would've done that to their own?

I am choosing to believe that in their little huddle of feathers, where they basically jump on top of each other to sleep as close to each other as possible, the little bantam got suffocated. Then in the morning they pecked her (chickens are cannibals when given the chance, unfortunately). The other option is that they intentionally killed her. That would be totally merciless, picking on the little guy just because they could.

All three of the chicks we have lost were barred rocks, which were Austin's favorite kind. He's in mourning for his favorites. Did I mention nature is cruel?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Arts and crafts with Austin

When Helen and David arrived on Tuesday, she left a little paper bag with a few things she brought down for us. As she was telling me what she brought she said that she brought a craft Austin made that she thought I'd want." Of course, I tore open that bag to see what Austin-craft was coming to decorate our house (see above image). Austin dates this artifact to his middle school or early high school years. It is now sitting proudly between two lions from China in our sunroom.

Let's look at Austin's crafts through the years....

This is a picture he painted/cut out when he was five that is now decorating Tucker's nursery. Tucker likes to point at it when he gets changed.

And today... the new chicken coop!

Attack of the trucks

We are being attacked by trucks. A month ago it was cute when Tucker started amassing trucks nearby us. Now, we are in a full fledge truck siege by the little man. Wherever we are, an army of trucks soon follows.

The other day at dinner, Austin didn't have a seat because it was being taken up by about 30 trucks. There are roving bands of trucks upstairs and downstairs, not in every room yet... but they move between rooms, so no room is safe.

Tucker orders his various truck armies with militaristic precision, and quite a bit of compulsion as well. He has definite ideas for how his trucks are supposed to be arranged and protests loudly when they are moved. I think he's going to be like his daddy because I am certainly not that precise or detail-oriented.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

One day...

...I'll learn how to park Austin's truck. In the meantime: beware!

Seriously, I've been driving Austin's truck all week due to my car problems, and I have to say, it is no Honda Civic. Today, I dropped Tucker off with Henny and had to navigate into a tiny space next to some little sports car. No limbs were lost, but it was a harrowing experience. Apparently, Austin has taken to backing into all these sorts of spaces... I guess to make it more challenging?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Exhausting and Irritating

I sometimes read Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest. This morning, the May 19th entry had a comment about trials... how they often aren't some grand event, but may be just something that is exhausting, irritating, or causing some sort of weakness.

This struck a chord with me as a mother. Exhaustion and irritation are the two big challenges I face day in and day out. Tucker is a precious (well loved) little boy. And yet, his needs are endless. Tomorrow he will need the same number of diapers, the same consistency, the same EVERYTHING as today. Even 20 months into this motherhood adventure, I find the 24-7 nature of the task hard. It is easy to reach the end of the day (or the hour) exhausted already.

And as for irritation, I think that also goes with toddler territory as well. Someone described toddlers to me essentially as little cavemen, and I can definitely see the comparison. There is nothing like whining, crying, or even happy shrieking, to wear a person down. Sometimes I feel like saying, "Tucker, can't you just act your age? You're acting so immature!" And then I remember that he is acting his age. This is the one time in his life that it would be difficult for him to act immature in the true sense of the word. :)


I wrote this post this morning, and it was not a good idea to tempt fate talking about stuff like that, because I just got a call from my mechanic saying my car needs a new computer. Now THAT is truly irritating. :)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Defying all Possibility...

...The fox ate another chicken today. Actually, he ate a baby chick (now an adolescent, really). The chickens were all safe in their coop. No wire was messed with, there were no gaps in the coop, and no holes where a varmint got in.

How is this possible?????

1) Did the fox somehow pry back the bottom of the coop door and swipe a hapless chick that was nearby? It doesn't seem possible... foxes don't have hands, and besides, if you pull on the bottom in just the right spot the gap is less than an inch (a cement block is now firmly anchoring the bottom of the coop door.)

2) Did the baby chick follow Austin out this morning, unnoticed by him? Perhaps the chick was hanging out on the outside of the coop, waiting to go back in.

Obviously, we'd prefer for the snatched chick to have been an escapee than for the fox to have breached our Fort Knox. Only time will tell.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fox: 3, Raccon: 1, Jackie: defeated

We have lost the chicken war. Two nights ago I went to put the chickens to bed and two more were missing. After closer inspection, Austin found where Brahma had been mercilessly killed by a raccoon. For those people who claim there isn't senseless killing in nature, you're wrong. Raccoons kill chickens by cutting off their heads and leaving their bodies.

If you're going to kill my chicken, at least have the integrity to eat her.

The other australorp was taken by a fox judging by the trail of feathers. We still can't figure out how a fox got into the fenced-in area where the chickens were, and more puzzling, how it got out with a large bird in its mouth.

We have gone from 9 chickens at the beginning of the year to 3 now (not counting our chicks). One ran away, one disappeared months ago, and we lost four this week.

We have been battening down the hatches and making alternate plans for our free-ranging girls. Yesterday we kept them inside the coop (which has a little enclosed run), with a partition to separate them from the chicks. They barely came out of the laying boxes all day, to show us what they thought of the new arrangement.

Austin also began work on a chicken tractor that will be a mobile coop with attached run that we will be able to move around our field, to give them fresh grass and fun things to scratch and eat, and yet keep them safe. He practically built the whole thing yesterday... when it's finished I'll post pics.

Ode to Harris Teeter

I am all for localism. We have a darling local pharmacy where the people know us by name and love Tucker. We have an independent grocery store "Great Valu" where one of the owners calls Tucker "a mighty fine fella" every time he sees the little man.

And yet, I confess that localism has its limits. Last month I finally, reluctantly, switched our recurring prescriptions to a Walmart 20 miles away... and am now saving 2/3 of the cost of those prescriptions. On just those two prescriptions, that simple change will save us almost $500 a year.

A week and a half ago, a new Harris Teeter (grocery store) opened five minutes from our house. The local monthly paper is busy calling names at all the come-heres who are going to ditch the local grocery store for the big box chain. And yet, yesterday morning when I needed to run our for egg whites, where did I go? To the only one that HAS egg whites: Harris Teeter. Will I keep trying to go to Great Valu? Yes. But do I think it's awesome that we have a big (some would say "real") supermarket so close to our house? Of course.

They had non-dairy ice cream for Tucker to soothe his sore throat. They have an extensive prepared foods section which really expands our options on the night when neither of us can face making dinner. It also is 5 minutes closer to our house and on the way to C'ville.

But yes, I do feel like a sell out when I turn into their parking lot.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Benny, you look dashing

I just finished up a beginning sewing class (thanks, Mom!). I actually already sew and have made lots of different things... but never officially learned, and decided it was time. Time to learn how to sew straight, how to follow patterns, how to do things right. You're only supposed to break the rules after you learn them, which is why my projects sometimes turn out quite wonky: I cut the wrong corners.

It took me two classes to learn the antidote to all my sewing problems: 1) wash the fabric first 2) iron the fabric before beginning and after each step 3) cut things out precisely rather than just ripping the fabric to approximate size 4) make sure you have the right equipment for the job (you really do need different type of feet for your sewing machine for different types of fabrics, and different tasks) 5) pin things to keep them in place. These "little" things really do matter, it turns out.

So, here's a picture of the reversible apron I made, modeled by St. Benedict the Great. Incidentally, I don't think he was thrilled by the apron, but he'll do anything for a belly rub.

The apron actually looks much sillier on me. It has a gathered waist band that accentuates the waist (just the thing a gal is looking for), and besides, who wears an apron these days? Not me... it would take more than an apron to keep my clothes clean around a toddler.

My next projects are to make Ben a new dog bed cover, to tailor a pair of pants, hem a dress... and after that, maybe try something fun?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Getting ready for farm work

Tucker found his tie this morning, just before we left to go strawberry picking, and decided it was just the thing for the occasion. He got a bunch of smiles throughout our trip to town, especially at the pharmacy and post office.

I thought berry picking would be a bigger hit with the little man than it was. He didn't see the sense in putting berries into the container, and he also was under the impression he should sample as many of the berries as possible, like he was a quality control inspector or something. So he went down the row picking strawberry after strawberry and taking one bite out of each of them (I did my best to stop this, of course). When I put the flat with our berries down for him to put berries into, he started taking one bite out of every one. I quickly took the flat away.

When we got home, he took his push/ride on truck and proceeded to run as fast as he could around the kitchen, while yelling at the top of his lungs. I captured a few seconds of it, but just imagine this going on... and on... and on.... Whenever we got up to do something he chased us around with the truck.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Making soy yogurt

Helen and David gave us a yogurt maker for Christmas. I'm slowly getting the knack of making good, thick, Greek-style cow's milk yogurt in no time flat, but soy yogurt for Tucker is another story.

I've tried gelatin, I've tried pectin. I've tried thickening up the soy milk with additional soy powder (not soy protein powder... kind of like soy flour)... and that's just the beginning.

Basically, the soy yogurt turns out a) gross or b) gross.

I have one more idea, but then I'm abandoning soy yogurt for good. I figure, why do something that a) no one likes and b) that I don't need to do?

I came across some time management tips the other day:
1) Stop doing things no one needs to do
2) Stop doing things that someone else will do if you don't
3) Stop doing things that aren't the kind of thing only you can do

Making bad soy yogurt definitely fits into category 1.


Yes, Tucker is sick AGAIN.

No, it wasn't from licking his chair at the airport. Turns out he picked up a strain of hand, foot and mouth disease that is running around C'ville but it incubated until we got to Vermont.

Could they think of a worse name than "hand, foot and mouth" disease? It sounds like leprosy. Really, it's a virus that causes some blisters... he only has them in his mouth, but it makes eating painful. (And I guess it makes screaming at night seem like a really good idea, because that's what he's been doing.)

Did I mention I'm done with illness in this house????

Fox: 2, Jackie: 5

The fox got Whitey today. She was our favorite chicken by far, with her penchant for squatting down to let us pet her, and her crazy flying abilities. She was the chicken whose wings I clipped to keep her from flying out of our chicken yard, and who managed to fly to the other side anyway. She was the one that liked to roost on our fence, just to let everyone know she was there. She didn't pick on the other hens or get bossy, and she never got broody.

Whitey, the essence of chickenhood, felled by the fox.

It is a sad day.

We're reinforcing our chicken protection measures and are hoping that the remaining 5 girls fare better. Turns out it WAS a good thing we got baby chicks this spring.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Back from Vermont

Tucker and I arrived home this afternoon from a 5 day trip to be with my mom on Mother's Day. We also caught up with Mike and Kat in Manchester (VT) and I did my best to stay completely out of their wedding planning. We had a fabulous trip, and exhausted ourselves with all the fun.

The plane was a big adventure because Tucker didn't remember the last time he had flown. He has really gotten a lot more predictable in the last few months, and navigating the airports with him went really well, despite a delayed plane and missed connections. Apparently, planes are really good napping machines. He slept through 3 of the four legs of our trips (counting there and back). Wow.

Today, Tucker even had his first McDonald's meal. We were in the airport and it was pizza (allergic to cheese), Asian food (possible nut contamination), pre-made sandwiches (allergic to cheese and mayo)... or McDonald's. He enjoyed some chicken nuggets with apple slices and (gasp) a sprite. I had my hand sanitizer with me and have been pretty diligent about keeping this trip pretty hygienic... of course, every time I turned around Tucker was sucking on the back of the chair, or putting his straw on the table and then back into his drink. No joke: Tucker arrived home with a 101.5 fever. Ahhhhhh!!!

Tucker is now completely scared of dogs. A month or two ago a miniature poodle jumped up on him, barking in a store, and since then he has been skittish around dogs other than Ben. However I didn't pay too much attention to his new dislike until this weekend when he absolutely freaked out over my Aunt Jackie's beagle... and every other dog we met. Despite his fear, I was able to enjoy meeting Kat's family's Newfoundland named Sierra. Wow. What a dog.

At a last minute extended family gathering on Sunday night, Tucker met my cousin's new baby daughter (4 months old). Tucker kept coming up to her and giving her toys she dropped, and just watching her. It was darling.

At the hotel where Mike's wedding will be in August, we spent about half our lives in the pool. Tucker seemed to be under the impression that he was 8 years old and knew how to swim... he kept trying to climb up the pool steps as fast as he could and then vault himself back into the water. Yes, this was as terrifying for me as it sounds! We made a bunch of different friends (from 5 to my age) that waved at us all the rest of our time at the resort.

Tucker was under the impression that it's swimming weather in Lake Champlain. We put him in his rain boots so he could go in the water... but each time he quickly was in up to his hips. He is in love with the beach and the lake, and splashing, and actually, all of Jo Jo's house (which mysteriously acquired lots of toys since I was last there).

Usually in the mornings we start the day by bringing Tucker into bed to play while we groggily wake up. Tucker would have none of this usual routine at Jo Jo's. I think he spent his night dreaming of all the fun things to do because as soon as I would get him from his crib, he'd declare he was "all done" with snuggling and run towards the stairs. My aunt Lynnie gave him a monkey that claps and sings "If you're happy and you know it...." This was one of his favorite toys, especially in the morning. Needless to say, Jo Jo had some early mornings.

Of course the trip was not all about Tucker. It was fabulous for me to be back in Vermont after a whole year away, and I gathered materials for two new (mysterious) projects. More on that later (possibly a lot later).

Time to sign off this marathon post. I'm impressed you made it this far!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Up and Down, Up and Down

Let's talk about some of Tucker's favorites right now...

Tucker's favorite song is the Wheels on the Bus, especially the part where the people on the bus go up and down. When we go for our walks in the afternoon, he sings "up and down, up and down" to me.

Tucker's new favorite clothing accessory is a neck tie. Henny gave him this cute little zip up tie, that I put on him for the first time on Sunday to shock Austin. I expected a lot of resistance from the little man to the whole tie idea, but he actually loved it. I tried to take it off before church so he wouldn't choke himself or get choked in the nursery, but I met with stiff resistance. After his afternoon nap, Tucker found the tie again and put it on to go outside and jump in puddles.

Tucker's favorite word is becoming "no." He does still enjoy saying "yes" as well, but the number of times he says "no" is just starting to explode. Of course, neither answer is super reliable, as I think sometimes he says the word he feels like saying regardless of the meaning. Something new in the past few days is that he's starting to play a bit imaginatively. We've overheard him lately playing with his matchbox cars and telling them "no!" and "yes!" and moving them around.

As for Tucker's favorite activities:
Tucker's favorite afternoon activity is terrorizing me by refusing to take a nap. Today he screamed for half an hour when I put him down the first time (and would've kept going, and going, and going). I let him play till he was tired... finally, at 2:45 I decided that even if he wasn't acting tired, it was time for quiet crib time. So I put him in his crib, with about half the toys in the house, a snack, lights on, windows open. What did he do? Take the best nap of the past 3 weeks. Ridiculous.

Tucker's favorite morning activity is massing armies of trucks and lining them up on me. I swear, he brings me these little fleets of matchbox cars, one by one, at least 3 times a day. He lines them up on whatever body part is available, usually my legs, though if I'm lying down, my belly works well too. If he gets bored of bringing me cars, he switches and brings me shoes.

Tucker's favorite activity all the time is begging to go in his high chair. He runs over to it, and wants to get up. We put him up and get food out. He stays in there for 2 minutes and gets down. Then we repeat, and repeat, and repeat....

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Construction Rodeo

We took Tucker to a construction rodeo yesterday. Basically, it was set up for contractors to show off their big machinery, to each other and to the general public. It was one of those unique events advertised both to general contractors and families with little boys.

There was lots of big machines. Everywhere. Actually, there were so many, it was a bit intimidating for the little man. Check out how serious he looked, and how tightly he clung to his daddy.

Some other highlights:
*We watched a wood cannon fire 2x4 boards at various types of walls.

*Tucker and I went in the moon bounce together. It was his idea not mine--after he got over being petrified, he really liked flying in the air.

*Tucker got a hard hat from the folks at Martin Marietta (though he preferred it if I wore it).

*Added bonus: there were tons of pickup trucks in the parking lot. Tucker helpfully pointed out every truck he saw, and let us know if it was like Daddy's or not.

We capped off a fun morning by our first trip to the farmer's
market for the year, and brunch at the diner.


I can lose anything that is not tied to my hand. Usually when I mean lose something, I mean misplace it. You know, it's not where it's supposed to be, so it necessitates an annoying 5 minute search just when I'm trying to get out the door.

But then there's another category of losing something, the kind where you open every cabinet, turn over all the cushions in the house, enlist your husband, and spend three days searching, and you still can't find it.

This is what happened to my wallet on Friday.

I FINALLY found it this morning. Guess where?

In the trash. Gross.

Moral of the story: time to pay more attention when putting away groceries and disposing of the plastic bags.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Haiku to the dead chicken

Seven birds in coop
Chicken feathers all around
Bye bye black birdie.


Tucker is not enjoying his crib these days. He wakes up and screams. He gets put to bed and screams.

Tucker has been a sleep-loving Jamison from the get-go, so this new behavior is not like him, nor much fun for me.

Yesterday he was so tired from screaming instead of napping that he conked out on the couch beside me when I was working and he was watching Thomas the Train. The phone even rang in the same room and he didn't wake up.

I guess the solution to our napping problems is more TV? Hmmmmm....

Walking in Daddy's Shoes

Tucker's been really into shoes lately, and I finally got a pic with him wearing some of Austin's. It's equally funny watching him in my sandals and church shoes.