Beautiful Babies

And introducing: Maisy and Lulu2. They are so sweet that they run right up to us for a rub and cuddle!

**This post is part of Wordless Wednesday and Wordful Wednesday.**

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FGF: Generosity!!!

Fridays should feel good, but we're dealing with some heavy stuff here.
  • Two of my freelance contracts are being discontinued (as in, the product is gone, not I'm being replaced, which is a strange comfort). I am now in the age-old debate on whether to maintain a daycare placement or keep Bella home until I find something replace that money. Keeping her home is free. Sending her to school at least part time is sane. Know what I mean?
  • Our baby chick (the Rhode Island Red) most likely died. She was always a little weaker than the rest and then Wednesday we noticed the other chicks/keets pecking at and bullying her. Then we realized she wasn't eating or drinking. We isolated her, but she just got worse and eventually couldn't even stand up on her own. We tried dropper feeding her, but she stopped swallowing. So we took her back to the breeder. My hope is that he is nursing her back to health, but I'm thinking the reality is he'd cut his losses on her. My poor little baby Lulu, who was actually Javi's chick...
  • We also found out on Wednesday that one of the Mountain Man's newest employees is one step away from homeless. He's only 18 and is raising his siblings (17, 14, 12, and 9) while his dad lays up with a girlfriend. However, the dad lied about paying the bills so now they have no power or water. My heart broke for them, especially when I heard how he told Billy and his other coworker (after they offered lots of help) that "no one had ever been so nice to him." What kind of world do we live in?
And so. I really need some !!! and some feely-good. Like, desperately need it. And so I went out and found it.
  • I posted about the boy and his siblings on Facebook and was overwhelmed with the generosity and outpouring of kindness toward him. People have already brought groceries and offered money to help him keep his family together. Not a single soul has asked me what race or ethnicity he is, how much money he makes, or what his education level is. When push comes to shove, people are really really good. They are loving and generous and good. I tend to forget that when I hear people ranting about "illegals" and "welfare babies" and the like. I am humbled by this boy's determination to take care of his siblings and I am awed by my community's eagerness to support him. !!!
  • My kid has been at camp all week. Remember our meltdowns? They have been few and far between this week. And then today, at the closing ceremony, the camp director pulled me aside to tell me how impressed he is with my little boy. He talked about how talented and intelligent Javi is. About how compassionate and funny he is. How he's full of initiative and drive. Not once did he comment on impulsivity, distractibility, or inattentiveness. Not once. I may have cried a little. !!!
  • A friend of mine from high school (really, the only one I have left) admitted to me the other day that she was really hurt by something I did. Basically, I blew her off. In my defense, I didn't mean to. We were supposed to get together while she was in town but I totally forgot until late in the day and when she hadn't called by then, I assumed she'd gotten caught up too. So when I finally called her to chit chat, I was really surprised to hear that she was nursing some hurt feelings. But I apologized and assured her that I just have a swiss-cheese brain and all is good again. So good, in fact, that we're going to hang out this weekend while she's here on an impromptu visit. I really value her friendship and it makes me happy to know that a) she was mature enough to be vulnerably honest and b) I was mature enough to apologize and move forward. !!!
So, you see? Feeling good. Intentionally happy. Finding the beautiful streaks of gorgeous silver in those unbelievably stormy clouds. Work will straighten itself out. We'll be okay. Life will go on. And I'm the luckiest girl in the world for having so many amazing people to share the good -- and bad -- times with.

**This post is part of !!! and Feel Good Fridays.**

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A girl and a movie

Once upon a time there was a little wolfgirl who couldn't sit still and cried when you tried to make her. Years passed with tales of other little girls sitting in the darkened theatres where imagination is turned into breathtaking feats of sight and sound. And so it came time for the wolfgirl to visit the dark rooms full of magic and wonder.

Flanked by a band of wizened and protective elders who had big dreams for the wolfgirl, her body buzzed with excitement on the big day.

Once in the dark room, she settled sweetly into her high-backed chair and snuggled the bikini-clad monkey destined to always be by her side.

She then watched Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Barbie, Ken and the other characters as they fought for significance and the true meaning of friendship.

And despite disruptions by her overzealous and enthusiastic mother, the wolfgirl made it through a good chunk of the story on the silverscreen.

Until, that is, she discovered the bathroom with automatic hand dryers, the free fliers in the theatre lobby,  and -- most tantalizing of all -- the arcade outfitted with too many flashing lights and blinking-red buttons.

So she didn't see her mother wiping her eyes as the movie drew to a close. And she didn't understand why she couldn't stay at the movie theatre forever. But she knew that Woody is noble and that Buzz is hilarious and that Jessie is her favorite. She knew that a cold, dark theatre on a blistering-hot summer day can be magical.

And a new family tradition is born.

**This post is part of Wordful Wednesdays.**

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The day has come. We built this:

And today we have these:

Who knows what tomorrow holds.

**This post is part of the 30-minute blog challenge.**

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We're whooped

Millers - 0, Squirrels - 4

That's the score in our backyard battle over bird seed. We want the birds to have the seed. The squirrels couldn't care less what we want. So far, the squirrels have outsmarted us at every turn.

First we were hanging our homemade feeder off the side of the deck. But I noticed the squirrels would get right to the edge and swing their bodies out so that their forearms rested on the feeder plate. They'd then gorge themselves.

Then we bought a pretty feeder labeled squirrel-be-gone that even had a cute picture of a squirrel with a line through it. We bought a shepherd's hook to elevate the feeder up off the deck. It seemed to be working just fine... until we realized it was so long that the squirrels could just sit up on their haunches and munch away.

So we bought a (much cheaper) plastic no-nonsense feeder that had an extremely short cord and deep basin. Surely it was squirrel-proof, right? You know how this story ends. The too-smart squirrels went ape-poo on the deck, launching and flinging themselves from every angle until one of them smacked right into the feeder. The force of impact made the feeder swing at crazy angles and the basin detached from the top, spilling all the seed.

We made a last ditch effort at feeding birds from our deck. We bought a feeder that comes in its own cage. There is a feeder plate, but it spills barely any seed. Instead, the birds must enter the cage and eat directly from the feeder column. Fool proof! We watched the squirrels knock it from here to yonder, and it still held firm. Success at last!

Until today. When I was walking through the dining area and noticed a gray blur. I kept my eye on it as I grabbed my camera. Damn if that tree-rat didn't jump up onto the feeder, scale it like a mountain climber, and then come back down so it's head was level with the feeder plate. It then used one claw to paw and bat at the column so the seed would spill out. As I watched, it consumed at least a quarter of the seed.

What the hell. They've outsmarted us at every step. Now that they've figured out how to game this system, I guarantee you, the 10-pound bag of seed we just bought will be gone in a few days. I just can't justify spending so much money to feed something that would eat anything.

This may be the end of our delightful conversations about how the chickadees are the cutest birds ever, and how the nuthatches and tufted titmice are so playful (read: aggressive, but we can't tell the kids that), how beautiful the bluejays and cardinals are.

So I'm soliciting advice from the experts. Is there a way to beat the intelligentsia living in my backyard? The mountain man keeps caressing his bb gun but I'd rather not go full Clampett on anything (just yet). We'll try anything so suggest away!

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Father, husband, friend

There's a man in my life who disproves most things I've ever thought about men. He's giving and kind. He's loving and funny. He puts up with a lot, laughs easily, and puts his family above all others. He's the type of father, husband, and friend I didn't experience growing up in our community of single mothers and children whose fathers had other priorities.

My mountain man isn't perfect, but he's the perfect one for us. And so far he's a having a fantastic Father's Day, as he should. We love him, he loves us, and every day together is a blessing.

Happy Father's Day to all the great guys out there setting wonderful and loving examples for their children. The world needs more of you.

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Top 5 Reasons Fat Folks Don't Exercise

I am the type of person who can only juggle so many balls. With school out for summer, I've been full-time parenting my needy son (curse you, ADHD!) while also working on a full slate of freelance jobs and trying to build a solid base for my little local blog.

As if that wasn't enough, I've also redoubled my weight loss efforts, which I've never really talked about. I am overweight and my natural inclination is laziness. Like, hardcore laziness. Like, I could lay on the couch all day long watching tv laziness. Ehem. Now that that's clear, I am proud that I'm trying to change my life-long habits by eating more healthfully and purposefully. We buy lots of local produce from either our Farmers' Market or the local CSA. We grill/bake/stirfry and never fry our foods. We have limited processed foods available to either the adults or the kids. I feel pretty good about our food intake.

It's the caloric output that gets me. Not only am I lazy, but I've lived my whole life -- as has every other fat person in the United States and other Western cultures -- under the self-righteous and disgusted gaze of non-fat people. They judge and assume and speak openly and loudly of their fear of being just like me. I can't begin to number all the blog posts I've read about the horror of being fat or a blogger's hatred/scorn of her overweight body (even when the body in question isn't really overweight at all).

The problem is not that the gaze is there. It's there for every women in one way or another. The problem is that this nasty gaze keeps many of us fat folks from doing what it will take to be healthier. With that in mind, I present these top five reasons fat folks would rather endure scorn than walk a few miles:

#1. The dreaded upside down V. Fat people know the V. You're geared out in a loose shirt and some type of cotton shorts, ready to get your walk on. You get going and your thighs rub rub rub and suddenly your inner thighs are naked to the world because the shorts' material is sitting up in your crotch. You try multiple ways to keep the material where it belongs -- the hip twist, the subtle squat, holding the material in bunches at your outer thigh -- until you eventually give up and dig the material out. Over and over and over again. I've considered just duct taping the legs to keep them in place. You could wear biker shorts -- and maybe you will if you're walking in the dark -- but the humiliation of walking with the upside down V is searing.

#2. Gawkers. You already have the upside down V. Now you have an audience. People in vehicles slow down and stare at you as they pass. People sitting out on their porches watch you as you come and then stare at you as you leave. You try desperately to keep the V out, but they're watching you. This is especially frustrating when you've gotten a really good pace up and your breathing is labored. You're trying to keep your V out while also trying not to be mouth breather. Fantastic.

#3. Encouragers. While gawkers are annoying, encouragers are just ridiculous. I'd honestly rather be stared at like a huge circus freak than have some out-of-shape old person congratulating me for having enough brain cells to know how to put one foot in front of the other. Fat people are just minding their own business trying to get a little walk in, but our society of thin(ner) busybodies feel they are justified in telling us how great it is that we're actually exercising, how more people "your size" should take that initiative, and a rundown on the health benefits of exercise. And, yes, I've experienced all of these and more.

#4. Chatters. There are some people smart enough to know that fat people know exercise might make them not-fat and there are plenty of people who know enough not to stare at one walking by, but then they go and mess it up by trying to hold a conversation with someone who's struggling to keep her shorts out of her crotch while breathing with her mouth closed after being stared at by morons and told she's an asset to fat people everywhere. Seriously? Does now really seem like the right time to discuss that new decision the HOA made? Could we wait to chit chat about how hot it is? Because I'm sweating profusely and my glasses keep fogging up and I think there's spittle in the corners of my mouth. Rain check, okay?

#5. Chafe and blisters. You gave up on the V, so your thighs are seriously chafed from rubbing together for the last 15 minutes. Your shoes don't fit right because your feet are over-pronated or flat or wide and so the resulting ill fit has rubbed blisters into your ankles, soles, and toes. You're hobbled from physical pain and feeling over-exposed from constant run-ins with busybodies. You want nothing more than a shower to get the nasty sweat off, bandaids to protect your sensitive spots, and the damn couch to lay on. Because that's where your ass belongs. And that is where you'll likely stay because damn if it's worth it.

So now you know. And, hopefully, next time you see a fat girl huffing while hoofing it through your neighborhood, you'll leave her the hell alone and realize she wants nothing more than to go about her business without either your pity or your input. Fat folks around the world will thank you.

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Summertime ... and the livin' ain't so easy

Teachers everywhere are rejoicing right now. Summer vacation has hit and they are free to pursue all the glorious things that summer brings. But parents? Parents are cringing and wringing their hands and begging somebody anybody for help.

We are no different. I have signed Javi up for a slew of day and sleepaway camps, which will start next week and will give him lots of ways to burn off energy and enjoy his carefree summer days ... but there are seven long, arduous days between now and then. Think I'm exaggerating?


Meltdown #1, 8:30 am: I instruct Javi to go get dressed in a tee shirt and shorts. He starts to suck his teeth and thrash around the room, but I curb his behavior with the promise of a reward. "Go ahead and get dressed, bubs. Then you can help feed the fish." But he takes a long time getting dressed and I know we need to leave soon, so I yell up at him, "Go ahead and brush your teeth while you're up there."

The ensuing thrashing and crying and stomping were pretty spectacular. "You said get dressed and I can feed the fish!" he sputters through tears. I tell him he will feed the fish as soon as he brushes his teeth. He does it  and then slams down the stairs and immediately beings to bully and taunt Bella. I give him a warning to cut the attitude. He sasses at me and winds up losing the privilege of feeding the fish.

We wind up 30 minutes late because he requires a time out before he can pull himself together to even attempt brushing his hair and putting on his shoes.


Meltdown #2, 9:15 am: We are in the car. I put on the iPod and "The Monster Mash"  and then "Gonna Have a Good Day" play and everyone's happy. Next is "I'm Me and You're You" and Javi yells, "this song sucks!" I give him a warning about watching his mouth. He says, "It still sucks and she sucks too!" while sneering in Bella's direction.

I tell him not to open his mouth again. He stares at Bella until she cries. I tell her to pretend like Javi's not in the car, that he doesn't want to be her sweet brother right now and we need to leave him alone. He starts up again and I let him know he's welcome to think whatever he wants, but that if he opens his mouth again, he'll be in daycare with his sister. He is quiet. Seething, but quiet.

When we get to Bella's school, he yells out, "Bye big baby!" as Bella's getting out of the car. She whines to me, "Javi had words come out of his mouth!" I reminder her that we're ignoring him. When I get back in the car I tell him he's exhausted his warnings. He is not to speak again until I tell him he can. He obeys.


Meltdown #3, 10 am: We've signed up for library programs and are now at another center signing up for a few weeks of fun activities. A child walks in with his lunch bag, but we know there's no camp this week. I try to help him while Javi stares at him. The child is obviously older; Javi is impressed by his independence and wants to impress him as well.

It is time for us to go, but Javi stares after the boy, who is wandering around the center. I tell him it's time to go and he resists. He makes weird faces and hand motions. Again, I tell him it's time to go. He exaggerates his motions/expressions. I head for the door and hear him thrashing and sucking behind me. He says, "I'm staying here. You need to pay for me to stay here." I explain there is no camp today and direct the secretary to help the boy.

Javi cries the whole way home. "You should've let me stay! All those boys were there and you were supposed to let me stay!" I tell him that I'm sorry he got confused, that the kid is likely being picked up by his mom now, and that he'll get to stay next week. I then let him cry it out.


Meltdown #4, 1 pm: We've had snack and lunch without any issues. Javi has played quietly at the table with the "boredom box" we picked up over the weekend. I hear him starting to get frustrated. He's huffing and hitting something. He asks me where the scissors are and I get them for him. He looks confused so I ask him what's wrong.

He tells me that he is trying to color a roll of pictures that has dots for cutting with scissors, but the instructions don't tell him to cut anything. I explain to him that he can choose for himself whether to cut the paper. He yells, "but the instructions don't say!" I read the instructions and they show a full roll completely colored. I ask Javi, "Do you want to make one long roll or do you want to cut it?" He starts to cry and says, "I already cut some!"

We go back and forth about why it's okay that he cut some and that he can leave it in two pieces, making two rolls. He's lost his patience but wants to see it through. So I put away the shorter roll and tell him to focus on the longer one. All of a sudden he's slamming his fists on the table and growling through tears. I ask him what's the problem and he says the edges keep rolling up and nothing he does will make it lay flat. I try to show him that if he puts heavy objects on either side, the roll will lay flat, but he is too far gone.

I take the roll away and tell him we're going outside. He cries and pushes at me. I lose my temper and yell at him to put his shoes on. His rage bubbles over and he's screaming and throwing things while yelling about the "stupid instructions." I grab him by the arm and yank him out of the room and onto our deck. We both just sit there for awhile until he calms down and we apologize to each other.


We are on Day #2 of summer vacation, and the day is only half over. I see the rest of our summer stretching before us in a haze of frustration and impatience and tears and resentment.

I try to remember that we'll hit our stride and that I have a child who doesn't handle frustration or transition well. I try to remember that this is a hard day and we'll have easy days, too. I try, but it's so hard and the urge to sit him in front a television or video game is intense.

We'll get by. The summer will pass and we'll have some really great memories. I want to live in the present, but right now my sanity hinges on that bright and glorious future. And that has to be okay.

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The Return

There's nothing quite like lounging in paradise while fielding a stream of texts about how your daughter cried for you for hours and your son reverted back to maturity levels not seen since kindergarten at least. But at least I knew they missed me and that I should lap up every minute of my vacation because there was work to be done at home.

Nothing could ruin my good time, though. Because there was this:

And this:

And a mountain man who came up with this "unique" fishing system all on his own:

And then pulled off on the side of the winding gravel road leading away from our little cabin to gather me this:

We connected. We laughed. We pouted. We were silly and tipsy and rested. It was a really, really good weekend.

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Something big, something small

We are going on vacation this weekend. Without kids. Soak that up. With. Out. Kids. We can count on one hand how many vacations we've taken without at least one child keeping us company. And one of those vacations was our honeymoon. Suffice it to say, we're gonna have a good time.

However, leaving them behind doesn't come without the bittersweet feeling that we'll miss something. Something big. Something small. A step forward, a good decision, a hilarious comment. We just have to trust that my family (who'll be holding down the homestead for us) will keep accurate track of how our brilliant children develop while not under our watchful and encouraging eyes.

Like how both kids were fascinated by the dry ice packed into our CSA delivery last weekend.
We had to force them to stop blowing on the ice just so they could bury their faces in ice vapor. Then we all hypothesized when and how the ice would melt. Lessons in vocabulary and educated guessing and why vapor and not melt. A quiet, rainy Saturday studded with science.
Then there are the long hours spent at the pool as Javi tries to make the largest and smallest splash. And Bella tests her budding swimming skills by inching further and further into deeper waters, buoyed by arm floats and a Dora ring with a water toy in each hand.
Though she is still the babygirl who loves playing on the steps, I see her slowly stretching into the ladygirl who will cannonball with the best of them.
Life will go on this weekend. We'll laugh and love and eat like adults. They will giggle and cuddle and pick at their plates like children. And we'll miss each other, but the days will fly and we'll be right back together living this life the way we do.

May your weekend be as big and as small as ours.

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Making my way

Making your way in the world today takes everything you got. Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. Wouldn't you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name and they're always glad you came...
Growing up, I faded into the woodwork. I wasn't as much a wallflower as I was an active avoider of the spotlight. Where my sisters thrived on attention, it made me feel creepy, uncomfortable, and awkward. I made my moves in secret and with a mantle of shame. I wanted to want all eyes on me, but that's not the girl I was. Still today, people will meet me and say, I know your older sister and your younger sister, but I didn't know there was someone in between. Even the mountain man (a man who may just be allergic to limelight) likes to make fun of me for being the phantom sibling.

And, yet, here I am. Active in my community to such a point that my name (usually misspelled) and face are in the local newspaper. Introducing myself to community leaders and feeling on-par with them in terms of education, success, and clout. Spotting unique needs in the community and trusting myself to develop projects and initiatives that meet those needs. Steering my own ship proudly, loudly, without any apologies and with my big signature smile.
I'm still learning who I am and what I stand for, but I really like the place I'm in right now. I feel smart and wily and driven. I have found a level of both professional and personal success that my younger self could never even imagine. And I welcome the shining light of positive attention.

Tomorrow I may seek the comfort of the back wall where I can hide from the probing eyes of those who seek to highlight my faults and shower me in negativity, but today ... right this second ... I am humble and grateful and really damn happy that I didn't give up -- not on my career, not on this life, and not on myself.
I am comfortable in my skin. I know my name, my worth, and my progress. I'm making my way in this world, and I'm doing it on my terms. It feels so good.

:::This post is part of Steady Mom's 30-minute blog challenge.:::

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