Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ryan's first knitting project

My super amazing husband learned to knit in support of my fledgling knitting classes business, and tonight he cast off his first project.

Heidi thinks it's the awesomest thing ever.

Don't tell him I know about it. It's my Christmas present, and I have to pretend to forget about it by then so I can be surprised.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Christmas is right around the corner, and my son's due date isn't for another 8 weeks. There is therefore no rational reason why I should be casting on a blue blanket instead of frantically making presents.

And yet I am. Blame the hormones.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mobile and independent

Milestone Monday

Heidi is officially a walker! After weeks of being convinced that walking was impossible without holding someone's hand, she has struck out on her own. Crawling is still faster, but walking allows her to reach for things like unattended yarn.

Also, manipulating. Last night she cried because I wouldn't let her play with my phone. Then she turned and grinned at Daddy, before she put her crying face back on for me. Toot.

Pants are overrated

And children in motion are hard to photograph.

In related news, I'm pretty sure my daughter is related to my oldest childhood friend. They share a certain tendency to put their pants on their heads. We'll see in some years whether Heidi also has the idea to pack for vacation by wearing seven pairs of underwear at the same time.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Milestone Monday

Nana reports that Heidi took five steps yesterday, but only because she had a toy in each hand and was too distracted to notice that she wasn't holding anybody's hands. This is the general pattern: we've seen her take one or two steps by herself many times, but only when she doesn't know she's on her own. I think hers may be a personality that has to struggle with "I can't," and we may have to encourage her a lot to believe that she can. On the other hand, she may just want to wait till she has it down before she unveils her new skill.

Ryan and I have been trying to teach her that the wood-burning stove is Very Hot, and now when she drags us past the stove on one of her toddles, she says "ha."

Also, I could have sworn she said "Papa." It sounded way too deliberate to be a fluke. She's been having lots of good bonding time with her Dallas grandparents this weekend, and has learned that Nana and Papa will let her play with grown-up books and are therefore more interesting than Momma and Daddy. She would also like it known that fried broccoli is the best thing ever, courtesy of MeMe and PopPop and Red Lobster.

Ten minutes after I started this post, she began vomiting bright pink curdled things, which is why this post is going up at 9 pm instead of at noon. There's no fever, though, so hopefully all the clear liquids and sleep today will pay off. Fingers crossed. I don't want that stomach bug; it didn't look fun.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Learning to want things

I love watching my little girl blossom into her own person with her own independent thoughts and ideas. Today she climbed into her carseat ready to go bye-bye, so we took an impromptu trip into town and got some yarn and board games out of storage. And why not? I want Heidi to grow up to be confident and able to communicate her wants and needs and to accomplish her goals. That doesn't start when she turns 15 and can already be a go-getter; it starts now with us acknowledging and encouraging her little baby ideas.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Milestone ... Tuesday

I failed at Milestone Mondays on my second week. Since I'm the only one I'm responsible to to stay on schedule, though, I'm going to say pfffft and do it today instead.

This week we are walking lots and lots, albeit holding hands all the time. We can stand for ten seconds or longer unassisted, if we're holding something to help us forget that we're standing. Also, we lead Mommy to the fridge and to the bedroom to tell her that we're sleepy. Yesterday Daddy turned our crib into a big-girl bed that we can get out of independently but that we're not going to fall out of in the middle of the night (hopefully), and this morning we played in our room happily until the parents woke up and came in.

Also, we pretend to put food in our mouths before throwing it on the floor, and this morning we scorned breakfast by sticking our tongue out and saying ppppppppppb, because we're a toot.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Quick photo

I promised I'd teach Heidi to knit when she could focus on playing a phone game without eating it - you know, cognitive attention capabilities and all that. Ryan is trying his darnedest to make that happen before she turns two, which may end up being counterproductive.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Milestone Mondays

I stink at baby-bookkeeping, but I had the brilliant idea to do once a week posts chronicling the achievements of the week. Hopefully this format will work better for me.

This week the skills around the house are standing unassisted for as many as three seconds at a time (look, mom, no hands!) and making up signs ("milk" looks like "the wheels on the bus go round and round").

In other news, "Season of the Witch" is the horror flick that wasn't. I can't figure out whose side I'm supposed to be on - the creepy and corrupt church or the innocent-eyed but clearly witchy (or at least frighteningly manipulative) witch - and if it weren't for musical cues I'd have no idea I was supposed to be scared.

Update: and THEN the zombie monks happened. That was officially one of the dumbest movies I've ever seen.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Love Languages?

Tell your kids you love them, all the time. But please, do it spontaneously and mean it. If you find you don't mean it, don't lie. Address your own feelings, learn why you don't mean it, and fix the problem. (Because in the most nonjudgmental-to-those-with-emotional-struggles way possible, if you don't love your kids, THAT'S A PROBLEM.) Don't saddle your kids with an understanding of love that's tinged with guilt or expectations.

My shrink repeats to me, every time I tell her about being insecure about my mothering abilities, "What do kids need the most?" and I answer, "love." But what if our form of love is the problem?

As I've been working through depression, my worldviews and how my childhood formed the adult I am in good ways and bad, I've discovered that there's a difference between what I mean when I say "I love you" and what I hear when others say it to me. I suspect that most other people experience their own versions of the same thing, for the same reason that there's no such thing as a perfect childhood.

When someone else says "I love you" to me, I hear "I have an obligation to you and I'm going to stand by it. Also, I want whatever problem you're having to go away." When I say "I love you" to my husband, I mean, "I desperately need you to love and accept me as I am, but even though every time I've given you the opportunity you've gone above and beyond my needs and helped to heal deep wounds, I'm still afraid to open up because I've lived under certain expectations and related guilt my whole life, so here's my version of what I think good wives say and do." When I say "I love you" to Heidi, I mean "I'm so sorry that my depression makes my obligation to you so overwhelming that sometimes I want to run away, because you are such an important and precious person and you deserve so much better than I can give you, and I never want you to hurt in your life, and if I can do anything to make you happy I will."

These disconnects in the meaning of the word "love" cause me pain in my life and make me feel sometimes like I don't know what love is at all. However, I also know that there are others in the world who hear or mean "I hate or resent you but I can't get away from you" when they hear or say "I love you," and I know that I am lucky for my particular dysfunctional connotative misnomers, since all of mine imply care and concern.

If my therapist is right, though, and I'm sure she is, then surely one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is a healthy meaning of "I love you." It will follow them into every relationship for the rest of their lives, and even affect their understandings of themselves and their own self-worth. Surely this is worth cultivating. (This is also true with spouses, but that's a different discussion.)

What about you? Do you hear and mean different things for "I love you?" How do you try to ensure that your kids and loved ones are hearing real love in your "I love you?"

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Birthday, Heidi!

And Happy Halloween, too.

HeidiPants had quite an exciting Very First Birthday. From demolishing her very first birthday cake at dinner with Mamaw, Grandad, Uncle Erik, Aunt Tara and cousin Ava

to feeding the yummy cake to Daddy

to giving yucky sloppy baby kisses to Ava

to dressing up in a ballerina outfit at McDonalds

and making huge messes with her cake there too,

she definitely thought it was the best birthday she'd ever had. For my part, I also rather preferred it to last year's birthday, for other reasons.

This is attempt #1 at using the Blogger app for iPhone, and I'm hoping the photos intersperse themselves in the text in the order in which I placed them. If not, I'm sure my intelligent readers can figure out which ones go with which descriptions. I believe in you guys!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cleaning house with baby

Montessori says to let children be involved in the cleaning-up process. Mine prefers to dump the trash can onto a freshly mopped floor, and to dip her fingers into the mop bucket and lick them. #montessorifail

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Baby signs and early communication

Before Heidi was born, we had grandiose plans for her education and our role in it as Awesome Parents. We were going to read all the baby sign language books! We were going to learn all the signs! We were the super awesomest ever. Of course, it hasn't exactly happened that way. Baby signs never really ended up on the top of our priority list once she was born. We enthusiastically signed at her for a couple of months after she was born, on the expert advice that babies begin learning communication from Day 1, and met with zero indications of understanding. Our baby would not be a signing protegy by the age of two and a half months, so sign language went on the back burner. We'd bring them out occasionally, find no response, and forget about them again.

This summer (8-10 months old) she has begun to blossom into her own personality. She clearly wants what she wants, and began to become frustrated with us for not reading her mind. Out came the signs again.

I am officially a much bigger believer in windows of opportunity than I used to be. We have been signing "more" (which we also use for "hungry")

and "drink"

 and "all done"

 for somewhere between two weeks and a month. As of three days ago, SHE SIGNS BACK! "All done" is more of hands opening and closing than wrists turning, but it's clear what she means, which is the whole point anyway.

And we are officially on a quest for more signs. If she can tell us when she's hungry, thirsty or done, why not when she's sleepy or bored or wants to pet the dog? Some interesting resources that we will definitely be checking out:
Baby Sign Language Academy

Ryan (before she was born): But why baby signs? Why not just become fluent in regular ASL and sign everything around her?
^ proof that the SuperAwesomestEver syndrome comes from him, not from me. Why bother doing ANYTHING if you're not going to do it ten times more enthusiastically than EVERYBODY ELSE?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

End of a (Facebook) Era

So Facebook's online security sucks, in case anybody reading this recently crawled out of the primordial ooze under their favorite cozy rock and didn't already know. I'm kind of amazed at what I have thus far been willing to put up with in the name of Having Internet Friends, including whining to my husband until he fixed my computer over and over again when it crashed from the rampant viruses. (I thought buying an antivirus would, you know, protect against viruses, but Ryan informs me that hackers are sophisticated SOBs that actually deliberately find loopholes and margins in antivirus programs, and find devious and sneaky ways to still infect your computer. JERKS.) But then somebody honest to goodness hacked my account. I received an email notification that someone had logged in from somewhere where I definitely do not live, and that they recommended that I change my password.

CHANGE MY PASSWORD?? Their internet security sucks so much that someone who doesn't even know me was able to access my account, and they think changing my password will make me feel all safe and bubbly again? How about fixing their encryption and hiring an antihacker team to protect their customers' privacy with all that money they're making from selling our information to every marketing company on the PLANET?

But I have absolutely zero confidence that anything of that sort is in the works for Facebook, which is notorious for hoarding information under fuzzy small type about who actually owns it and changing its terms of use and privacy settings with no courtesy notification so that suddenly they have the right to publish your list of favorite songs and most commonly discussed topics all over the internet with no consent from you, and when you take them to task for it, they say, "No, no, we don't! your security is important to us! See? You can go to your security settings and opt out of it at any time!"


And here's the thing: it's not even that I care about the information I chose to share on the internet being available on the internet. I have a blog, for goodness sake. (Ryan: And now Big Brother knows that you have a baby and that you're pregnant again! Me: HELLO? Social Security Administration? SoonerCare? THEY ALREADY DID.) But if I chose not to share information with the world (such as my personal email, which I had to give Facebook to have an account, and which they decided to put on my public profile in defiance of my privacy settings just by conveniently changing their interface), or if I wished to use the internet to communicate semi-privately with someone and didn't wish to suddenly have all my conversations plastered on my friends' homepages where they wouldn't even need to go to the trouble of stalking me to find them, Facebook said, SCREW YOU, WE WILL DECIDE WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR INFORMATION. And by the way, you can't even close out your account, because we will keep all your information and continue to use it however we see fit, and if you ever have a momentary relapse, you'll find it all there safe and sound, ready to suck you back into the vortex of social networking obsession. We will make it as hard as humanly possible for you to delete your account, but we'll pretend on our sign-up page that it's easy by conveniently calling it "deactivation" instead of "deletion."

Muahahahaha, Mark Zuckerberg chuckles over his steepled fingers.

By the way, Steven Mansour claims that there are exactly 2504 steps to closing your Facebook account. After working all day to close mine, I think he may have forgotten one or two. And all Ryan and I accomplished was deleting my photos, friends, pages, groups, and two months of status updates. Gah.

In case anybody didn't realize the severity of this situation, let me clarify that I have to hand-delete FIVE YEARS of status updates one by one, curser on the x and click. Repeat. Ad infinitum.

To compare, all I have to do to delete every Blogger post I've ever written is to click the "delete blog" button.

Which brings me to my solution to the problem: Google-based social networking, because Google lets me retain ownership of my information, and if I decide that they don't deserve access to it anymore, they let me delete it. So they use it in the meantime to put ads on my sidebar. Meh. If that's the cost of a free service, I really don't care. I just want the right to decide what I share, and to be able to change my mind later and be assured that it's gone.

I'm kind of in mourning for my Facebook account. I have five years of my life there. I have (had) an extensive network of friends and acquaintances, most of whom I occasionally stalked, but some of whom I  actually really enjoyed conversations with. Not all those people are on Google+, and most of those on Google+ aren't talking very much yet. Living in the middle of nowhere, Facebook was a very important source of social interaction for me. But my security is more important. All I can do now is try to convert people to Google+ so that I can have updates to obsessively check again.

Please, Google, don't get too greedy for your own good. Google+ and Blogger have my current loyalty because of your security policy. I will delete all my information from Facebook if it takes me a month, and if you go the way of Zuckerberg, don't think I won't do it to you too.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Language Acquisition

Tonight, much to her daddy's delight, Heidi demonstrated her ability to follow directions. She fetched a toy halfway across the living room before she was distracted by a shoe. (I didn't specify that her attention span was particularly long.) Daddy reminded her about it, though, and this time she brought it straight to him. Later, he instructed her, bizarrely, to put her finger into the filtered-water spigot so that she could feel the water spray around it. And she did, several times. Far be it from me to squelch learning, of course, but Daddy was wise to volunteer to clean up the mess himself anyway.

It was an evening of much language-acquisition elation. Which led to this conversation:

Him: I told her I wanted the red toy! And she went and brought it to me! And handed it to me when I asked for it! And stuck her finger in the spigot when I told her to, without me even showing her how!

Me: Well, they say babies understand words a lot sooner than they start to say them.

Him: I know! It's awesome!

Me: So we should probably start watching out for those four-letter words...

Him: Yeah...

Because there are some forms of language that just aren't acceptable in preschool, guys.

This has been your daily lesson in parenting. Tune in next time for more tips on how to be better parents than we are.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Lemon ginger BLTs!

If you've never experiences this before, you have to try it. Lemon zest and grated ginger in the pan with the bacon makes the best BLT in the world. My husband must have been a chef in a previous life. How does he come up with these ideas?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Reverse SAD

You know, I'm used to hearing about Washingtonites and Oregonians getting depressed because of the weather. How lucky I am, I've always heard, to live in a place where the sunny climate would perpetually engender positive emotions.


One reaches a point in 100 degree weather when the sunlight just fails to revitalize. It begins sapping energy, moisture, happiness and the will to live. When it finally began to rain on Tuesday, the realization that I had clothes on the line could in no way detract from my joy in the long-awaited nourishment. In fact, since then I have been putting clothes on the line on purpose in hopes that they will be rained on.

Three days so far. Three blissful days of overcast, drizzly, cool weather. I can walk outside without feeling the need to recover afterwards. The fallen leaves from the drought now soaked with rain give the illusion of fall. It's not fall yet, but while the weather lasts I can pretend. I hope it lasts till December.

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What Happens When You Don't Have Private Health Insurance

I opened up my blogger thinking, "I should post about what we did this weekend!"

"What DID we do this weekend?"

"Wait. It's Thursday?"

"So it's almost the weekend?"

My life apparently revolves around these brief and blessed breaks from getting up at 5:30 am to send the husband off to work.

So since we actually did nothing last weekend except going into town, which is an Event for us nowadays, I'll write about What Happens When You Don't Have Private Health Insurance.

I've been pregnant twice before. I lost the first baby at 10 weeks pregnant; the second baby is the one you see all the pictures of. For both previous pregnancies, I did not have health insurance, and had to go to Hastings, the free Indian hospital.

Except I'm white. The Indian hospital only cares about me when I'm pregnant, because Ryan's Native American. And won't see me unless I have a doctor's note that I'm pregnant. (Walmart pregnancy tests don't count; I asked.)

So here's the vicious circle: I can't get healthcare because I can't prove I'm pregnant. I can't go to the doctor to get the magical proof of pregnancy because I have no insurance. I'm going to Hastings BECAUSE I DON'T HAVE INSURANCE. They won't see me because I can't prove I'm pregnant.

(Or get on SoonerCare so you can go to a private hospital, which is what I plan on doing this time. They still want a proof of pregnancy to give you pregnancy insurance, though.)

The solution? Pay cash for a fancy Ob/Gyn pregnancy test; get the rest of the prenatal care free. It costs $17.50.

But this pregnancy? I got to the window, told them I need a pregnancy test and I'd be paying cash, and instead of smilingly handing me the clipboard, the two ladies at the window looked at each other uncertainly and one said, "ummmm, do you have SoonerCare?"

"No, that's why I need the pregnancy test, so I can get on SoonerCare, or go to Hastings, or something."

"Welllllllll, if you're paying in cash, it'll be $55, but if you apply for the SoonerCare Family Planning plan, you're automatically pre-approved online, and it'll be free."

"WHAT??? It was $17.50 the last two times I did this!!"

"Yes, but we're not allowed to do a sliding scale with our charges anymore, and we're now required to charge you a $37.50 office visit fee too."


And the SoonerCare online application doesn't work. So I can't go take a pregnancy test. So I can't get the health insurance I'm supposedly entitled to, as a pregnant mom under a certain income level. I can't even go to the Indian hospital where they treat Native Americans (not me, of course, but the baby) for free. If I got strep and needed to get antibiotics or my baby might die, I would just be stuck. Or beg my pharmacist father in law for smuggled antibiotics. Or something. Because I don't have $55 to spend on peeing in a cup so someone can dip the exact same litmus strip in it that I bought at Walmart for $4 and tell me what I've known for thirteen weeks.

You read that right. Our new wonderful healthcare reform is requiring my local Ob/Gyn to charge $55 for an uninsured woman to get a proof of pregnancy so that she can get insurance. It's requiring the health department to charge $45, they said at the clinic. What used to cost a price that made me take a luxury or two off the next grocery list now costs enough to make me take all our produce and dairy off the next grocery list.

It was kind of Oklahoma to begin offering the family planning insurance, which covers pregnancy tests. It would sure be nice if they'd get their website working, so that I could get approved for the family planning insurance, so I could get proof that I'm pregnant, so I could get full insurance, so I could, you know, go in and finally hear my baby's heart beat and be reassured that he/she is growing enough. Or I could drive *back* in to town by myself during the day, which is a burden when you live in the middle of NOWHERE and which we usually do after work or on weekends together, fill out the papers at DHS and wait two or three weeks or however long it takes them to get around to it just to be allowed to go pee in the cup.

Because *this* is what our healthcare reform is really doing for everybody who doesn't work at a job that provides health insurance: SCREWS US OVER. Yeah, I love you and your assumption that everybody worth anything works for Corporate America too. Man, I can't wait until I have to pay a *fee* for not being able to afford your crappy insurance. And whatever's available from the government for those who can't afford it is probably going to be very similar to Hastings: traumatic to a degree that I would almost rather give birth in a parking lot next time.

So whose brilliant idea *was* it to outlaw a sliding scale for cash customers, so that those who came in with money instead of Blue Cross/Blue Shield cards would no longer be able to afford to be seen? Or to put so many burdens on the insurance companies that they had to raise their premiums to levels that regular people can't afford anymore? I mean, the system sucked before, but it sucks way worse now.

Wow, that was supposed to be a funny story and totally turned into a political rant. I guess I need to go put my grumpy pregnant butt in a hot bath with a fantasy novel.

*NB: Full Disclosure: When Ryan heard my horrified gasp of "FIFTY FIVE DOLLARS?" he said, "whatever, just do it." I was the one who decided, not that we didn't have the money, but that we needed it for other things more. We're not destitute. If you were getting ready to take up a collection for our poor impoverished family, we'll still take it, though.*

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Shower adventures!

Daddy was waiting for the shower to warm up, and Baby became curious. He said, "Momma, you better come get this baby!" and I said, ""Oh, she'll learn!" She did learn, but not in quite the way I expected her to.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I came from Dallas, where I knew maybe one or two people with Native American ancestry, for whom as far as I could tell their heritage existed in history books. Of course, I probably do have childhood friends whose homes kept alive a vibrant Native American heritage, but I never knew of it. In my world, the Indians were pretty much defeated and forgotten. I knew of the existence of reservations (I wasn't entirely uneducated) but in any real and practical sense just had no idea that Indians were still out there.

When I moved to Oklahoma, my first big surprise (after the city-shock) was discovering that THERE ARE PEOPLE HERE WHO LOOK INDIAN! Like, woah, that dude could totally be the famous photograph of Geronimo. In a totally not-racist way, I had had no clue that Native American facial features didn't die off with Indian sovereignty (which I later learned also still exists). Again, in a totally not-racist way, I had never seen anyone with Native American features who wasn't predominantly and obviously hispanic. I was from Texas. I just had no idea. (I've since then found out that most of my Texan friends also have no idea, and when I tell them I live in a hub of Native American culture, they kind of say, "what's that?" So don't judge me.)

A few months after I moved to Tahlequah, I saw some news that there was to be a pow wow, and I thought I'd like to go see it. I sat in the stands and drank my root beer and looked at the dancing as one would look at a Civil War re-enactment. "Hey, those costumes are really cool! Hey, this music makes absolutely no sense to my European-trained ear, but it kind of sounds like Last of the Mohicans! Look, big headdresses!"

It wasn't until I met my husband that I began to realize that this heritage doesn't just represent the vestiges of a long-conquered culture, but that it is real, alive and vibrant. His father and brothers participate in Osage ceremonial dancing. When I first heard a conversation among brothers about acquiring an eagle wing (or feathers, or tail; forgive my ignorance, but I don't remember exactly what it was) I kind of thought the whole thing was silly, but as I've been exposed to this heritage more and more I have begun to realize just how deep and important this heritage is.

This area was the end of the Trail of Tears. The Cherokee were removed from the land of their heritage in Georgia and the surrounding area and forced to move to Indian Territory in a brutal trek. When they arrived, they had to rebuild their lives in this new area of rockier soil and harsher climate. For many, the memory is still very painful and present. They brought their Eastern stories and culture, founded a seminary in Tahlequah (now Northeastern State University), and have been active in enriching the culture ever since.

Part of my husband's heritage is Cherokee, and part is Osage. The Osage have been on this land for time beyond history. They were some of the first to convert to Christianity, but are quite proud to have never been one of the five civilized tribes. They did not make peace with the white man, so my husband tells me, but maintained their bad-assery and fierce tribal pride. The Osage is the tribe for which my father and brothers in law dance, and in which my family received our names this past weekend.

The Friend family belongs to the Tzi-Zho Wah-Shtah-Keh clan, which means the incredibly soft plumage underneath the tail of an eagle, but which is often simplified in English to the Eagle clan. The Tzi-Zho Wah-Shtah-Keh are the mediators of disputes, and the clan which provides the chiefs.

The names we received reflected aspects of our personalities as well as characteristics for us to strive for. Ryan's name, Ah-Who Shin, means "the one who carries the sacred eagle wing." The wing of the eagle from elbow to tip is something that can only be carried by one who has achieved maturity and wisdom, and who has seen so much in his life that he has come to humility and an understanding of how little he really has seen in the whole world. My husband is young, but he often does approach a decision with a wisdom beyond his years. His being named for this quality is both a reflection of a characteristic that he possesses and a blessing that he may come to possess it more.

My name is Eh-Nah Doin Pi, which means "the one who looks to the maiden," or the one who can go through the clan giving each person what he or she needs, crying with the one who is mourning and laughing with the one who is celebrating. I definitely think that my name must be much more of a blessing than a description because I don't feel I have this gift at all, but if it's a blessing it's one I'll accept gladly, because I would love to be that person.

Heidi is the first daughter, and all first daughters receive the same name: Khu-Eh Doin, which means "looking at the eagle." It means, more or less, the maiden who receives wisdom and guidance from the sacred eagle and brings it to the people to guide them. First daughters are supposed to be in charge and strong-willed, know what they want and what needs to happen, and to take charge of matters with no uncertainty to get things done. I kind of wish that the first daughters of this clan tended to be a bit more easy-going and easily led, but ah well. Hopefully the understanding nature represented by my name will prevent battles of willfullness represented by her name.

My sister in law and I are not Osage, but we received names because if our husbands pray for us in Osage they will want to be able to say our name, and therefore the Osage give names to women who marry into the tribe. I began my journey not even being aware of this rich and beautiful heritage, and I feel so honored to be welcomed into it now. Thank you, Rauk, for making this possible, and thank you to my Osage family for putting up with an ignorant little white girl as I learned. Not that you had much of a choice. I wasn't going anywhere anyway.

Monday, July 18, 2011


This may be the only squash we harvest this summer, but we're making up for it in tomatoes!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Training our WHO???

There's a word I've been hearing since before my marriage, and which after my marriage has begun bothering me more and more. I'm sure you've heard it, and wives, maybe even said it without really thinking. I may have even said it myself in the past.

"Oh, I'm getting him trained. He puts his underwear in the hamper now."
"I don't pick up after my husband. I have him trained to put his dishes in the sink."
"You just need to train him."

It's always about domestic duties, and includes the assumption that men are helpless but adorable imbeciles when it comes to anything regarding the functioning of a household, and that wives have the strenuous task of "training" them to become fit to move in from the barn and take their place at the head of the table.


Let's start with the least of my objections. While I may have a married, female reader somewhere who began her marriage with a thorough and exhaustive knowledge of how to run a household, I know most of us just didn't. We were brought up to go to college and have a career. We were not taught at our mother's knee how to balance the household finances, how to plan menus, how to cook gourmet meals, how to mend clothes, how to make clothes, how to organize a house, or the best way to clean it. Most of us were taught some of these things; I know no girls who were taught all of them. Once upon a time, I'm given to understand by conservative female bloggers, girls *were* given a thorough education in all these things, and it was the nefarious opening of the doors of employment to women that destroyed the traditions of these beautiful womanly arts. I don't know about that, because I've read plenty of pre-WWII novels that talked about housewives who didn't know how to do their job. David Copperfield, for instance. But whatever the cause, the fact is that in modern American society, most women get married without knowing how to be a proper housewife.

Which is fine. In modern American society, most women work outside the home and, as is fair, divide the household duties with their husbands. Ryan and I have done this. In fact, I counted this afternoon and discovered that I have been a stay at home wife for exactly half the time that I was a working wife. And we divided the household chores. I didn't always feel that they were quite fairly divided, but Ryan didn't always feel that my side of the chores were very well done, so I suppose we were about even in our levels of disgruntlement.

But this was also the time in which Ryan and I were both learning to manage a household. We were not quite both out of college, and we both had heretofore kind of had a college-style attitude toward housework. You know, wait until it becomes unbearably disgusting and then clean all in one day, making sure to include plenty of angst at how this house got so nasty and how the other person needs to learn to pick his/her s*** up.

We gradually became better at the whole keeping our house tolerably un-disgusting thing. During this period, I spent quite my fair share of being annoyed at Ryan for, say, leaving his dirty socks around. But let's face it: the reason the socks bothered me was not because I had a perfect knowledge of how to keep a perfect household, but because I had just recently come to the realization of just how bad the dirty socks made the house look, and had just learned not to leave my own socks around. My frustration was a result of *my* learning, not a result of Ryan's barbarism.

And a magical thing happened. As we got in the habit of keeping the house clean ... we got better at keeping the house clean. Ryan knows that the dirty socks lying around bother me. His socks usually end up in the bedroom now, which is vastly better than all over the house. When they don't, they'll end up on top of the table, because he knows how much I hate picking them up off the floor. It makes me shake my head and laugh. Does that mean I trained him? No! It means that we both have learned how to keep a decent house. Not only that, but when I keep the house clean now (which, let's face it, I'm a stay at home mom, so in a completely practical and unpatriarchal sense that *is* my responsibility), he's more likely to put his things away and not to leave messes. Does that mean I trained him? Again, no. It means that houses, like cities, are subject to the broken-window theory. And that I've become a good enough housewife to take advantage of said theory.

Also. It's not just that we've been learning together. There have been some things that Ryan has taught me about managing a household that I just didn't know. Like, I guess you're supposed to make a menu every week? Never even knew. Definitely didn't learn that one at my mother's knee. My mom just enjoys thinking about the feeding-her-family aspect of motherhood so much that actually sitting down to write out a menu would be as irrational for her as sitting down to write out a list of things I want to knit next would be for me. They're just there, in my brain, more projects than I will ever be able to do. Staring blankly at needles wondering what to make is as incomprehensible to me as staring blankly at a pantry wondering what to make is to my mother. But, as it so happens, I don't like thinking about food - it stresses me out. So I do stare blankly at pantries and wonder what to make. Ryan has been telling me for TWO YEARS to make a menu, and I finally did it last Sunday. And it was amazing. I suddenly knew what we needed at the store, and my dinner-preparation stress was almost nil this week. Of course, if I'd really followed my own system, I would have known that I planned for roast tonight, so I would have put the roast in the fridge two days ago and begun to marinate it yesterday, instead of pulling it out of the freezer at noon and putting it straight into the crock pot. See, I'm still learning.

So, Ryan teaches me things about being a housewife, but I'm supposed to be the one training him?

However. This long-winded explanation was the vastly less-important reason why this idea of training a husband is odious to me. Here's the real reason it gets my goat:

"Yes, I've really gotten my wife trained well. She keeps the house clean, doesn't bitch when I bring home buddies unannounced, and doesn't even ask me to help change diapers anymore. Took a while to train her, but I did it."

HELL NO! I'm not a dog! I am not somehow sub-human just because I'm a woman! I may be a stay at home mom, but that doesn't make me a little wifey-poo whose entire life revolves around keeping the children sparkly clean and the house tidy and the pork chops on the table! You did not TRAIN me! I'm a real person, I have dignity, I have intelligence, and being a housewife is not my equivalent of sitting up and begging for treats!

Oh wait.

So if it's not OK for him to say it about you, why do you say it about him?

Come on, ladies.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Going Crazy

I. Am. Going. Absolutely. Nuts.

How do you other people who live in the country DO it? I've been away from a big city for 4 years now, and I've really been pretty happy. My shoulders don't tense up just from driving, for instance. I eventually got over the lack of Starbucks. But a stay at home mom living in the middle of nowhere? I'm going BONKERS. I've begun having dreams about roads along the side of our property which lead to beautiful suburban developments with ritzy yoga studios and overpriced coffee, and people to meet.

I get nothing done around the house because I spend all my time on the internet trying to feel like I have a social life. It's not a substitute for a social life, of course, so then I distract myself by playing Farmville. I mean, it's 100 degrees outside and I'm pregnant. Of COURSE I'd rather play with a fake farm than attempt to make a real one. I poke around Mother Earth News reading articles about urban sustainable agriculture, and think, "yes! urban! urban is the key word here! urban means no deer ticks! urban green means riding your bike to the museum when it's too hot to weed your edible landscaping!" People, this is not working for Mary Catherine.

I don't know if this is just a pregnancy-related frustrated phase. If it doesn't go away soon, though, I'm going to really have to start considering the possibility that I just can't do this. There's no shame in not being cut out to be a hermit.

At least our watermelons are doing well, and by "doing well" I mean "exploding with vines and invading the peas and the radishes and turnips that we were allowing to bolt and planning to seed-save with." We have ten baby watermelons so far. I had a dream that Ryan cut them all down with a weedeater for no apparent reason, and that I was very sad. It probably had to do with uprooting the two squash plants that had become infested with squash borers; the same squash borers that keep eating our tomatoes. Darn them...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

For the weak, for the strong

In the year or so that elapsed after the Australian Shepherds were banished outside and before Heidi learned to put food into her own mouth, sweeping my floor every day was a sure sign that I was becoming intolerably anal about my housekeeping. Now, sweeping the floor after every meal slightly increases one's chances of being able to walk across the floor barefoot without being overwhelmed by the ick.

She has me in training, folks.

Hygiene is for the weak.
Aversions to dirt and bugs and slimy things such as half-masticated bread balls in the house are for the weak.
Sleep is for the weak.
Heightened emotional states due to pregnancy are DEFINITELY for the weak.

Sitting around for hours doing nothing but playing with the baby and babbling back to her is for the STRONG.

I can't wait until the next one is her age and SHE can be the entertainment. I will referee from up above while I, you know, get stuff done. If my ideas of life with two under two are overly rosy, please don't tell me. Such optimistic ideas will be short-lived enough as it is. Let me enjoy them while they last.


Google search phrases that brought people to my site this past week:

"how I got conned"


"where can I get knives that edible arrangements uses to" (The rest is a mystery since it won't let me scroll over or click on it to see the full phrase.)

Question: what person searching "how I got conned" clicks on a title about hiking? And how do any of my posts relate to knives? I don't remember ever discussing cutlery.

Whatever. Welcome!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Welcome to the Jungle

This post brought to you by the snarky comment Ryan made about how I should take more pride in my garden, and would I take pictures of the current weed-grown state and put it on my blog? He didn't think so. To which I said "pish," and to prove that I meant "pish," I hereby present a 100% honest nothing-hidden-with-clever-camera-angles post about exactly how overgrown my garden is.

The jungle

There comes a point in every gardener's summer, I believe, when "well-tended" stops being the goal and "damage control" becomes all one can hope for. I reached that point a few weeks ago, and to justify this event, I will enumerate a few facts:

1) I'm pregnant
2) and tired all the time
3) and sensitive to the heat now
4) and prone to dizzy spells in the heat
5) and our average daily temperature has been bloody hot
6) and I have a baby around whose naps I have to schedule my day
7) and we have a really big garden
8) and just getting it all watered is a pretty big chore
9) and I'm pregnant
10) and have I mentioned that it's bloody hot?

So my MO has become something to this effect:

(register shock and fear) Oh, no! The watermelons are about to be completely choked out by weeds! They are sending out their tender little tendrils and will find nowhere to put their roots down! The bugs will all eat the tiny leaves and they will die!

So the watermelons get weeded. Or at least the weeds get mown down so the watermelons have a better chance.

Damage control.

Today I went carrot hunting. Am I the only gardener to be absolutely frustrated with carrots? They took for.ever. to come up, and when they did they looked like little blades of grass, so I didn't dare to weed. Then they started looking more distinctive, and I thinned them and weeded, only ... they didn't all come up. There are large portions of our carrot rows that just had no carrots at all. So I let them be, hoping that these large portions were just as slow to come up as the rest of the carrots had been to start looking like carrots. And then I started with the damage control, and the carrots were very low on my priority list. Occasionally I would peek among the weeds to see if any carrots were down there, and they always seemed to be not growing at all. While the lush and verdant weeds towered over them, the little tiny carrot plants still looked about the size on the seed packet where it shows you how to thin them. Do they really just grow that slow? Or are my carrots stunted because I've neglected them and left them to the weeds?

So my project today was to rescue the carrots from the weeds. I wasn't about to weed the whole rows in all the places where the carrots weren't, because are you crazy? Instead, I found myself bizarrely hunting for carrots through weeds up to my knees, pulling them up wherever I saw a carrot frond.

carrots, pictured with background of thriving weeds

Welcome to the jungle.

In happier news, garden excitement:

baby watermelons

baby squash

and baby tomatoes
please turn red, little green tomatoes

Corn and tomatoes!

Rows of more watermelons than we will know what to do with

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A new arrival! and the joys of caffeination

Announcement announcement! We're expecting a playmate for Heidi sometime in the beginning of February! Hurrah!

And as of this morning, to all the naysayers who say that caffeine is bad for you during pregnancy, I say blergh. 

When I found out I was pregnant, I ceased my morning coffee, and coincidentally absolutely ceased to be productive during the day. At all. After feeding Ryan breakfast, packing him lunch, making him coffee and sending him off to work at 6:15 am, I would go back to bed. Wake up when Baby woke up, nurse her in bed while dozing for, oh, an hour. Trudge out to the kitchen, make breakfast for us. Eat at leisure. Put on boots and go garden, lament that it was only going to be shady for 30 more minutes. Get one row weeded, trudge back inside. Put baby to nap, sleep. Wake up when she woke up, trudge into the kitchen to eat some lunch. Finally, at about 1:30, think about the fact that I should clean a little, or maybe work on the book. Simultaneously realize that I haven't made bread or thought about what's for dinner. Make bread, spend 30 minutes thinking about what's for dinner. Decide to make spaghetti and therefore not to worry about it for 4 more hours. Put baby down for afternoon nap; fail at self-discipline and lay down anyway. Have finally swept the floor by the time Ryan comes home. Have to admit to him that in 10 hours I've only weeded one row and swept the floor because I'M JUST SO DARN TIRED.

So last night I admitted to him that I just can't do this healthy thing anymore. Unless, that is, he's happy to have a wife who sleeps all day. He said, "well, then drink coffee!" (This is the same man who tried to forbid me any caffeine whatsoever when I was pregnant with Heidi. Tried. For our own good, of course.) And this morning, I had two cups of blessed blessed coffee.

Which means I weeded almost all of the watermelons AND the radishes AND the turnips.  And trellised the peas. And weeded the one canteloupe plant that I had forgotten to put straw around. And picked all the dangerously fungus-y looking leaves off the raspberries. And ate three blueberries and one absolutely perfect strawberry.

I was going to bring it up to the house to take a picture of it, because it was perfect. And then I smelled it. I couldn't help myself. It was deep bright red and shiny, small and round and just ripe enough to have the seeds fall off in little squishy patches when you squeezed it. And it was SWEET AND DELICIOUS.

All before baby's naptime. She played on a big fuzzy blanket out in the shady part of the garden, and then got bored, whined a bit and fell asleep. To be quite honest, I wouldn't have done so much out in the garden if she hadn't fallen asleep, but once she was asleep I thought it a shame to wake her up to bring her inside. She also learned that weeds are itchy when you crawl off your blanket onto them, and that dew is chilly. She has some little red bumps and lines on her skin from the grass. And you know what? I'm ok with that. I'm working so very hard at overcoming my hyperprotective instincts.

I might join Heidi for nap #2 this afternoon. In fact, I hope to. I'm gestating; I'm entitled. But oh my goodness, my life is so much happier this morning for being caffeinated. If anybody knows how to be coffee-energetic on only water, I'm willing to listen. In the meantime, though, natural health and responsibility are far less important to me than feeling human.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Radish harvest!

Our first harvest! I know it's late in the season. We planted late. I still think they're lovely. Now to figure out what to do with them.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Montessori at home - how does this work??

Sorry for the week of silence. It was a busy weekend, and a busy week making up for it. Ren Faire, party, shopping, unpacking, and the garden going crazy. Blogging, not so much.

I <3 Ren Faires.

I was researching this morning how to make my baby's environment more discovery-friendly. I knew Montessori had programs for infants. What I found was mostly what I already knew - play mat, lots of floor time, simple toys made out of real things (not plastic). I had already tried to incorporate as much of this as I could into our life, but it's always been difficult. My baby hated tummy time for months. Now she doesn't mind it so much because she's getting a bit mobile, but she gets frustrated at being at the level of our feet. She would much rather sit in her high chair while I bake bread, playing with a toy and munching on pieces of dough. She wants to be up on my level and involved in my activities. And it's not like I can let her crawl around on the table while I sweep the floor. says not to use swings or baby seats, because it hinders development and encourages passive observation of the world. I can't function without one, unless I want to listen to my baby scream from the floor. Clearly, the thing to do is to get down on the floor and play with her (and I do), but I don't have all day to do that! I have too much work to do to confine it all to naptime. Have any other moms found how to make this work - give maximum freedom and encourage mobility while still getting your work done and keeping the house in order? Or is my baby the only baby in the world who feels abandoned when I leave her to play on a mat on the floor while I get housework done?

Right after reading the article about crawling time for babies, I took her outside to garden. The carrots finally appeared, and I needed to weed them. I chuckled to myself as I carried the Bumbo outside to put her in. Maybe she could learn more if I let her crawl around and pick all my seedlings. But until she's old enough to understand instructions not to pick the plants, I'm not going to let her. Take that, idealistic educational theorists. At least I brought her outside.

and she taste-tested the grass and dirt for me

Current plant count (as of the plants I bothered to count last night and today)
266 corn stalks
21 watermelons
15 squashes
5 canteloupes
8 cucumbers
12 tomatoes
2 raspberry bushes
2 blackberry bushes
6 strawberries
2 blueberries
and I haven't counted the carrots, radishes, turnups and peas.

and one raspberry!!

strawberry flower. so excited.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Weeds, seedlings and pine needles.

"All one hot morning, the beans were popping out of the ground. Grace discovered them and came shrieking with excitement to tell Ma. All that morning she could not be coaxed away from watching them. Up from the bare earth, bean after bean was popping, its stem uncoiling like a steel spring, and up in the sunshine the halves of the split bean still clutched two pale twin-leaves. Every time a bean popped up, Grace squealed again."
Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Town on the Prairie

I didn't actually witness any seedlings popping out of the ground today, but I swear, there were some spots that were bare when I started weeding but had brand-new chartreuse sprouts by the time I came back to them.

I have spent the past week or so fearing to walk into the garden. I didn't know where the hills of watermelons, cantaloupes, or squash were. The rows of corn, radishes, turnips and carrots were easy to find, but we put them on the back fence! To get to them, or to get to the berry bushes, I had to tiptoe around unidentified hills of seeds. When we planted them, I put a pile of compost on top of each, and at the time the black spots showed up starkly against the reddish soil. But then it rained every day for five days straight, and when I looked again, there were no more black spots warning me where not to step.

So today, as I picked grass and eagerly examined the ground for any trace of seedlings, I squealed with glee at the sight of a definitely-watermelon sprout. I gathered up some nearby rocks (see? even a curse like rocky soil can be a blessing if you're imaginative) and built a little circle around the precious seedling. I felt vaguely pagan and Druidical, as if I were making a sacred stone ring to protect the gift of Mother Earth, but in fact I was just marking off where I should not step, in such a way that I would be able to see it once I was again 5'7" off the ground.

I put rock circles around the other seedlings I could find, and in several places where I couldn't see seedlings but I imagined that the tiny clover sprouts might be melon sprouts. When I tried looking for sprouts 3 feet apart from each other (the distance we'd planted the melons) I invariably failed, so eventually I went back to picking grass.

And then I found the squash! I had begun to fear that the squash just wouldn't come up, and one of the squash patches still doesn't seem to be very active yet, but the patch that gets the most sun is coming up with a vengeance! Some of those seedlings didn't need a stone ring because even I in my blindness could see them.

When I made my way back across the garden, I built a few more rock circles for seedlings I hadn't seen before, which leads me to believe that they must have sprouted while I was working. Grow, babies, grow!

Little watermelon in a Magic Rock Circle

Peas! We have 4 hoop trellises with 2 rows of peas each.

A squash in a Magic Rock Circle. Judging by the way the mud is displaced around it, I'd say it popped up today.

Corn. And weeds. And more weeds. And more corn.

Tomahtoes. Twelve of these.

Either turnips or radishes; don't remember which we planted in which row. Also pictured: weeds.

I included some pictures of the pine-needle mulching I did yesterday. Pine needles lower the pH of the soil (make it more acidic), which I hear berries appreciate. They're also GREAT for weed control. Ever notice how sparse the grass tends to be under pine trees? YEAH. Not to mention that if you have pine trees, you have FREE MULCH.


Arranging the pine needles around the plants reminded me of bird nests.


Raspberries. Next on the agenda: train this plant onto the trellis! It's growing like crazy!

We will soon have straw to lay down for mulch on the rest of the garden. I can't wait. It helps keep the weeds from taking over, and at the same time it keeps the soil cool and moist and keeps your plants' roots from being scorched. And as it decomposes, it adds organic matter to your soil! You win all around! Some think it's not as pretty as bare soil in between rows, but I'd rather look at a lush, weed-free garden mulched in straw than a scraggly choked-out garden any day.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Quick link:

Googled "can I mulch raspberries with pine needles?"


Answer: YES, and potatoes, and blueberries and strawberries (already knew about the blueberries and strawberries; blackberries too, though she didn't list them) and azaleas. AND dump coffee grounds around them.

So concise. So exactly what I needed to know.

So putting this website on my favorites bar.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Our Favorite Bread

It has not been easy finding a bread recipe that works for our family. My ideal bread is whole wheat: flavorful, hearty, with a texture you can really sink your teeth into. I once tasted an olive bread from Central Market. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It had chunks of kalamata olives baked into it. It was quite simply the most delicious piece of bread I had ever tasted, and I still remember it with reverence.

Ryan's ideal bread is Wonderbread.

This would not be a problem - I could buy my olive bread (if there were a Central Market anywhere nearer than four hours away) and he could buy his Wonderbread, if not for the fact that we also want homemade bread. For two years we have, either one or the other or both, been unsatisfied with the bread that has come out of the oven, and our frustration was high.

Then, three weeks ago, I accidentally found a bread recipe that satisfies both of us. It has the whiteness of white bread and the healthiness of whole wheat; it has a wonderful crumb; it has a delightful crust. It is flavorful. It's a very modified version of the Potato Bread in George Burnett's The Breadman's Healthy Bread Book. I intend no copyright violation, and I think that I have modified the recipe enough to avoid any copyright violations anyway. At any rate, surely he won't sue someone who has a link up to his book on Amazon and an endorsement to buy it because it has lots of other great recipes too, right?

Hope so. Anyway, here goes.

A Friendly Home Potato Bread

In a bread machine, mix
1 cup water
1 Tablespoon butter
1Tablespoon honey
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup soft golden whole wheat flour
1/3 cup mashed potato flakes
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast

Set bread machine on dough cycle. Place an oven-safe dish with at least 2 cups water on the bottom rack of your oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. When bread machine beeps, shape dough into a loaf and turn it out onto a floured baking stone. Let rest for 10 minutes, longer if you want a lighter texture, but don't let it rise so much that it will fall if you touch it. Use a serrated knife to cut lines about 1/2" in the top of your bread, to make room for oven spring. Bake on the middle baking rack, above the dish of hot water, for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Pretty simple, but there are some Very Important Rules.
1) You HAVE to use soft golden whole wheat flour. The nutty flavor that we all associate with homemade whole wheat bread comes from hard red wheat, which is the common grocery store whole wheat flour. If you like that flavor, fine, but I know sometimes it's hard to get used to, especially for all of us who grew up on grocery store bread. I use Prairie Gold from Wheat Montana Farms. Seriously, DON'T CHEAT ON THIS INGREDIENT. (before you die of a heart attack, the link is to a 50 lb bag. It's about twice as expensive as grocery store all-purpose flour. I do NOT pay $50 for a 5 lb bag of flour.)
2) Don't forget the dish of water in the oven. The steam will give you a wonderful, thin, crisp-but-not-crunchy fresh-from-the-bakery crust.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we do! If you have trouble with the recipe or if you find you have to make altitude adjustments, please let me know. I'd like to be able to post the best, most complete version I can.

More more tornadoes

Well, we survived the tornadoes last night too. And lest you think these were some paltry little Texas-style tornadoes (which I recall as usually involving some minor house damage and maybe some downed trees, but nowhere near as serious as north of the Red River), they made the New York Times. We'd been listening to the radio and watching the live satellite on the website of whatever TV station plays it - we don't have a TV, so I had to ask Ryan each time for the name of the local weather station. We watched the line of storms move from the OKC area towards the McAlester area, and right as we saw the line moving through Muskogee, our phone rang. It was Ryan's brother Erik (whom you can visit at, telling us, "Take cover! There's a tornado on the ground east of Wagoner and it's moving your way." One minute later the radio said the fateful words, "Lost City," and five minutes after that my dad called. I reassured him that we'd opened all the windows and taken all possible preparations. The satellite still showed the storm hovering safely on Muskogee, a good thirty miles away from us.

Guess that live satellite wasn't as live as the radio reports.

The sky here was calm, though not clear, and the dogs lazed about as if they hadn't a care in the world, so we guessed that we had a little bit of time. We changed out of our PJs back into real-people clothes and packed some emergency supplies in a couple of bags in case we needed them. Of course, since this house doesn't have a basement, I don't know under what circumstances we could need emergency supplies and still be around to use them, but I guess there's no harm in being prepared. We unplugged the internet (and the computers, Dad!) and listened to the radio until the storm began scrambling the signal too much. Then Ryan turned it to country, and I began freaking out because I wanted to hear a weather report, I've never been in a tornado without hearing a play-by-play weather report, every tornado I've ever experienced I've experienced in the safety of a bathroom with up-to-the-minute coverage of exactly which intersections the tornado was crossing, and THERE'S A TORNADO COMING WHY ARE YOU LISTENING TO MUSIC???? I'm from Dallas, you see.

In fact, I went and laid down on the bed in my jeans and boots because the music was worrying me so much that I couldn't get a grip on myself.

Then I realized that we live in.the.middle.of.nowhere, and even if there were a radio signal for the AM weather station, they would not be telling us whether the tornado was currently ravaging a town that consists entirely of a stop sign and the four houses on the corners surrounding the stop sign, nor whether said tornado was happening to bear down upon a tiny brown house on a dirt road five minutes away from the stop sign in the middle of nowhere. I took a deep breath, walked onto the porch, apologized for being silly, and watched the sky with Ryan. After all, there was no way of knowing, sitting in a bathroom, whether it was safe to come out yet, or if it had ever been unsafe to be out in the first place. There are no tornado sirens in the country.

After a while we began to see lots of lightning in the sky to the east, moving from south to north. It only barely drizzled. There was a nice breeze. If we hadn't heard of a tornado warning, we would have thought it was lovely weather to sit out on the porch past our bedtime, refusing to worry about how tired we would be in the morning. Eventually nothing happened, and we went to bed. I slept in my clothes, because I was still nervous about a rogue tornado breaking off from the main storm front, backtracking and targeting our house like a heat-seeking missile. Taking my boots off was my one concession to comfort: I wanted to be ready to jump up at a moment's notice, grab the baby and huddle in the bathroom.

At midnight on the dot (I know, I looked), some other storm about which we hadn't been warned broke upon us with a fury. There was hail, there were howling winds, there was a veritable deluge. I shook Ryan and tried to make him interested in the situation, but either he was too asleep or he really thought it wasn't a big deal. I lay in the bed and trembled for the hour in which it assailed us. I listened for anything that sounded remotely like a freight train, because that's what I've heard tornadoes sound like. Between my sleepy wishful thinking that there were no freight train sounds and my paranoia that everything was a freight train sound, I am still unsure whether I did in fact hear a freight train sound or not. It passed, however, and I haven't seen a downed tree yet this morning, so I'm inclined to believe that if there was a tornado, it at least did not touch this 10-acre valley.

So here we are, only a little sleepier for the wear. Please, though, can we be done with tornado season? This is quickly becoming obnoxious. I can't get out into the garden as long as the soil is this soaking wet, and between the weeds taking over and the seeds becoming too waterlogged to sprout, I'm getting a bit worried.

Later today I'll share the magical bread recipe I found after two years of searching which satisfies Ryan's desire for white bread and my desire for healthy whole wheat, all in one!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Front porch

This little girl knows how to relax.

Storms, tornadoes, and a really excellent fantasy book

It’s spring in Tornado Alley. Two nights ago we stood on our front porch teaching our baby about hail and marveling at a peal of distant thunder that extended for a seemingly impossible amount of time, and then doubled and even tripled its duration still after that. Yesterday morning we heard that a tornado had ravaged Joplin, MO, and we wondered if that distant and impossibly long thunder had really been thunder after all.

Last night we again stood on our front porch and watched a deluge wash over our land. Before the storm got bad enough to thoroughly jumble our satellite signal, said there was a tornado watch. Then the storm intensified and the internet died.


(We also unplugged the computers, Mom.)

It is easy for those of us lucky enough to live in first-world countries to take shelter for granted. Houses, to us, are havens, party places, do-not-disturb tranquility zones, or status symbols. It’s not often that we remember that houses are primarily shelters.

I’m reading The Wheel of Time, a fantasy series on the covers of which the author’s name is as large as the title. Believe me, this surprises me as much as it should surprise those of you who know me in person. It’s fabulous. It comes highly recommended by this hypercritical English major. If you’re looking for imagination and excitement unsullied by copious amounts of erudition and deconstructive theory, but with enjoyable and sometimes even beautiful prose, you will definitely find it here. Perfect for snuggling in an armchair and devouring while a thunderstorm rages.

Anyway, there is a race of people, the Aiel, in these books who refer to houses as “roofs.” They have blessings upon entering a roof and refer to the mistress of the house as the “Roofmistress.” Watching these storms during these past two days has made this concept very concrete for me. Our houses are, first and foremost, roofs under which we can shelter from the elements in safety and comfort. In ordinary circumstances I can easily find myself lamenting that a house is not big enough, does not have enough storage space, is not arranged correctly, or has bad insulation. I can do this because I see my house as an extension of myself – the place where my stuff is, where I spend my time, and where my energy permeates the possessions and even the very walls. Listening to the storm rage about me, I realized that tonight, I would be just as happy to be dry in a cave. The important thing is the roof.

And then I thought of what happened to Joplin, and all the towns that have been torn apart by tornadoes, floods and hurricanes, and I realized that even though a house seems so permanent, so concrete and owned, even a house is not always sufficient shelter.

We couldn’t even find out if anything similar was happening right then. What happens when your place of safety is turned to matchsticks by a mile-wide tornado?

I sat in my home and listened to the rain pounding on the metal roof and against the windows and thought of how small a space is confined by these walls and protected by this roof. I prayed that it would stay safe and that Mother Nature wouldn’t feel the need to let my family know that she is stronger than our concrete and steel.

I also am still praying that the garden survive all this rain. It would be a small inconvenience compared to the devastation of losing one’s house, but I would really appreciate my plants not being wiped out.

p.s.: I apologize for the awkward formatting of the Amazon links. I wanted them in a neat straight-across line under the mini-review, but they haven't progressed to click-and-drag user friendliness and I really don't know how else to move elements around. I stopped being tech-savvy when the iPod came out and I didn't get one.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rage Against the Butternut

One of our goals for living in the country is to eventually grow all of our food, with occasional dispensations for exotic foods. I also have the goal of buying local, which is somewhat incompatible given the fact that if one grows all one's own food, one by definition does not buy it. I'm sure that in the years to come we will find a balance between growing as much as we can and buying the items which are just too much trouble to grow ourselves. In the meantime, we're setting the goal of growing *all* and hoping for the result that we will therefore grow *more* than if we only set the goal of growing *some.*

Not to change the subject too quickly, but two years ago I bought some pie pumpkins with the laudable intention of turning them into a pie. They sat on the refrigerator for six months, at the end of which we found them while packing up the house to move. Ryan took one look and said, "Throw those away, they're all rotten."

Well, they weren't. One was a little soft at one spot, and in the middle of that soft spot was a tiny bit of mold. That one got thrown out. But the other was perfectly sound and edible.

The same thing happened the next winter, though the period of time was three months instead of six.

And thus I became a believer in the preservative power of pumpkins. Ryan expanded this into a belief in the preservative power of the entire squash genus. And because we want to eat food that we grew ourselves, last week he bought five varieties of squash seeds.

So we tilled up the garden, inventoried our seeds, measured the garden square footage, paced out the spacing between plants, and began planting seeds. Corn, carrots, turnips, cucumbers, watermelons and cantelopes joined the flourishing berry patch. Squash was the last thing to plant.

When we began planting our hills of squash, I noticed quite a few rocks in the soil and voiced a concern that the squash would have a hard time taking root. Ryan said, "With my luck, I could plant squash in a pit of rock and cover it up with eight inches of soil, pack the soil down and pour Roundup on it, and the squash would STILL come up."

"Aren't you being a little bit arrogant about your gardening skill?"

"No. I hate squash."

"So why did you buy five varieties of it???"

"Because it keeps well."


"The Rage Against the Butternut" was the running joke for the rest of the evening. Ryan made various aggressive man-noises as he hoed up hills for the squash, and punched the soil on top of the seeds with his fist. I came behind with my little handfuls of compost and told the seeds not to take it personally. On the last hill, he emptied the remaining contents of his seed packet all into one hole and said, "With my luck, those fifteen seeds will all sprout and won't even choke each other out."

I hope so. I hope to see shelves full of squash this fall, and if Ryan complains this winter that he's become bored with squash, I will gently remind him that he was the one who bought all those seeds. Ok, maybe I'll rub it in his face. It's no burden to me; I like squash just fine.

Amazon wishlist link (full disclosure: if you click through on this link and decide to buy the book, I get money and you get the satisfaction of helping to support our self-sustaining adventure):