Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Winter Morning Ritual

I am up earlier than usual this morning, pushed out of bed by a desire to get bread started so that it might be ready for lunch. Sourdough bread made with flour from the local mill, kefir grains, raw milk and flax seed. It is in the oven, rising, right now.

Winter mornings are a true delight for me. The chickens have made this so. Without them I might have missed something that now is truly a highlight of my day.
The chickens' water freezes in the cold weather and therefore must be changed daily (sometimes twice a day). This is why I must go outside in the mornings. Not going isn't an option, they have to have fresh water.

And so I step out onto my deck in temperatures that are below freezing. I am wearing my pajamas. Flannel pants and an old, old sweatshirt that I snagged years ago from my father. Now that I have dreads I sleep with them in a bun high on top of my head, and so there they are as I step outside, my neck exposed to the wind and cold. I wear whatever shoes I can slip on and are "weather appropriate" ~ which pretty much means will they let snow immediately through or will they keep my feet & ankles dry? My hands are bare.

The metal watering can is cold to the touch. We have two of these. One is in the chicken coop and one is in the laundry room, thawing out. We swap them every morning. This morning it needed filling, so I performed this act on the deck, hauling water out from the bathroom inside.

The sun is rising and the shades of blue in the sky get progressively lighter, accentuated with streaks of blazing pinks and oranges.
The cold air surrounds me. I feel like I've taken a dip in a pool, but I can breathe this coolness in and it fills me. I feel my cheeks turning rosy, my skin tightening. I feel refreshed and alive.

I walk down to the chickens' Winter Chalet and swap out the watering cans. They are grateful. They are impatient for more food, which I oblige them with. They crowd around it and I am reminded of the pecking order in life as the Queen chickens refuse to allow the other ones to eat immediately.
I check the coop, topping the nest boxes with a little bit of fresh straw. I retrieve a green egg from one of the nest boxes. The chickens have begun laying again after their Fall molt. The egg is already cold. I will go back outside several more times before noon, checking for eggs. There is simply nothing quite like the experience of being able to collect a freshly laid egg out of a nest box. It is warm, nearly hot. If the hen has just laid it, it will sometimes still be damp from the process. Even if it has already dried, it will be warm. And that warmth pulses with energy. As a woman I feel so incredibly connected with this.

Sometimes I will stand on the deck for a while. Neighbors are rarely out, though I might wave to my next door neighbor as they begin their morning.
I listen to the dogs around the neighborhood bark. Watch the sky as it changes color. Watch Foster as he watches me. Watch birds that fly in swarms and make Winter trees beat with life.
I breathe deeply. All this cool air filling my lungs and awakening my body. I talk with the Universe.

When I go back inside I take my shower and then make myself a mug of warm ginger tea with honey. As the tea cools I get dressed. I come back to the mug and feel the warmth of the tea spread through me like the light of the sun spreading across the sky. Those fiery pinks and oranges.

This is my morning ritual in Winter.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Totem Pole

In the animal world, or at least the canine & chicken world, there is a definite pecking order, a totem pole of how the animals view the alpha order of the pack. This is a record of Foster's view of our pack.

Top of the Totem: Mommy

~ I am pretty certain this is similar to how I look to the dog.~

Mommy has secured her place at the top of the totem pole. She is MOMMY and she is to be obeyed, at least most of the time. That would be a similar view point the kids hold as well.
However, since I am still a puppy I still want Mommy's undivided attention. No-one else may love on Mommy because Mommy loves only me. If someone else tries to love on Mommy then I must throw a fit and try to get Mommy's attention by biting at her. I am a Mommy's boy.
Mommy also gives me more treats than Daddy, including knowing that I like extra goodies in with my meals.

Next on the Totem Pole: Daddy

Daddy ranks #2 on the Totem Pole. See how serious and mean he looks?? He doesn't let me on the bed. He doesn't give me treats on my food. I don't bring him toys. I still love him though.
I've even been practicing how to sit on the couch like Daddy. He used to not let me do this, but now that I'm learning to get my butt fully on there (with my front paws on the floor) he seems to like it.
Daddy sometimes likes to think he is head of the totem pole but we all know that Mommy rules the roost.


There are three puppies in our house. Here is the order in which I see them.

Head Puppy: ME!

Of course I am HEAD PUPPY. The other puppies don't know how to be head puppy. I have to tell them what to do. I don't think it is fair that the other puppies get to be on the bed and I don't though. That is just wrong.

Middle Puppy: Shannon

Shannon sometimes thinks he is head puppy and sometimes he thinks he is the baby. This makes him Middle Puppy. I think Shannon needs to be taught how to behave properly and, as head puppy, it is my job to teach him. Shannon doesn't like this. Neither does Mommy. Or Daddy. They just don't know that, as Head Puppy, I HAVE to do this. See how silly he acts?? He is not acting like a proper Mastiff.
He does help Mommy out though. Today he even held our pet rabbit Logan after he finished giving her food. Of course I had to make sure he held her properly so I stayed nearby, nosing at Logan to make sure she was held securely.
I like Shannon though. He has cool toys. He has legos and cars and trains and trucks. I like playing with them. But Shannon acts like a baby and cries when I try to. I just don't get it, but I do know this is another reason why he can't be head puppy.

And Finally, the Baby Puppy: Tristan

Tristan is the baby puppy. See how he has stuff in his mouth?? I do that too but I get scolded for it. Tristan gets scolded too, but he still does it.
Since Tristan is the baby puppy it is my upmost responsibility, as Head Puppy of course, to make sure he is ok. When he walks through the house I have to make sure he doesn't fall over, so I have to constantly wrap myself around him and lean against him, securing him with my strength. I do such a good job of this that he usually stops in his tracks and yells for Mommy or Daddy to come help him walk. Babies don't know how to walk on their own.
When Tristan climbs onto Mommy and Daddy's bed I really worry about him. I have to nose at him to make sure he gets up there, sometimes even guide his feet with my mouth. He doesn't appreciate this. Babies rarely appreciate all the things you do to keep them safe. Mommy doesn't always appreciate it either and sometimes yells at me for it. She yells at Shannon when he tries to help out sometimes too. Mommy is a little crazy.
I also have to make sure he is tucked in securely when he goes to bed for naps and at night. I nose him all over. He sure must be fussy at bed time because he tends to cry about this. I guess he is just tired. Babies get tired easily and they cry when they're tired. It's ok, as Head Puppy I understand these things.
Tristan has lots of neat toys too. He has stuffed animals that I really like, including a little stuffed dog. He has cars and trains and toys like Shannon's too. And, like Shannon, he acts like a baby when I try to play with them. They don't like sharing their toys with me, this is why I am Head Puppy and they're the babies.

This is my family. I love them a lot.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Magical Yule Beginning

Unless you live under a rock you are aware of the total Lunar Eclipse that occurred in the wee hours of the morning, which is also the Winter Solstice. This hasn't happened in 372 years (1638) and won't happen again until 2094. Since you are reading this, you obviously don't live under a rock (and if you do, I am very impressed by your wireless server!).

The boys and I spent yesterday learning a little bit about lunar eclipses. Basically they learned that it is caused by the Earth casting a shadow on the Moon because the Earth is between the Sun & Moon. Shannon will be 7 in January & Tristan is 4 1/2. I don't expect them to grasp much more of this, especially since I had to look up the info to be certain of what I was telling them.
We also talked about how long it has been since the last total Lunar Eclipse occurred on the Winter Solstice and how long it will be until the next one. I told them that, if they're lucky, they might be alive to view the next one. I tried to explain why Justin & I wouldn't and how nobody on our planet now was alive for the last one. Those were more difficult concepts for them to grasp.

Shannon found a scrap piece of paper yesterday and created this for me, without me being near/over him or knowing what he was creating. This is what I love about homeschooling & unschooling.

We went outside last night, and like so many people saw only clouds. Although we would've love to seen the actually Moon & eclipse, we weren't saddened. We still woke up the boys and, with them in our arms, wandered out onto our deck to gaze at the reddish sky for a while. It was beautiful. Magical. Dark. Softly glowing red. The air filled our lungs and bodies. We knew so many other people were outside, gazing up with us, and we felt connected to them all. A sense of awe spread through us. We felt loved and whole.

I am saddened to read comments on Facebook this morning of disgruntled people who also saw the clouds but didn't see the beauty. There is a saying 'you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink' and I suppose this holds true now. You can look upwards and still not see the beauty.

The Winter Solstice also marks the beginning of Yule. Different people celebrate this in different ways. It is an ancient celebration that has, like so many other ancient ways, been melded into modern celebrations. From now until the 1st of January will be the 12 days of the Yule celebration, more commonly now known as the 12 days of Christmas.

Holiday songs fill my head right now. Particularly I have James Taylor singing 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas' playing in my head. I will share it with you.

Whatever you choose to celebrate, if you choose to celebrate, know that we are all connected. As we stood outside and breathed in the night air, we felt our breathes in sync with all of you.

Happy Yule Y'all.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Foster the 8 month old Mastiff

~Hello, I'm only 8 months old. I am still growing & will get a lot bigger!!~

Foster is our first English Mastiff. I grew up with St. Bernards but, let's be honest, my mother was the one really raising them, I just lived in the house with them. Raising a giant breed dog, no matter how much we love him, comes with it's unique "challenges."

Let's start with the basic stats:
*At 7 weeks old (when we got him) he weighed 17lbs.
*At 8 months old he weighs 114lbs
. -- Yea, he's put on almost 100lbs in 6 months.
*Height from the floor to his shoulder ~ roughly 29". It's a little hard to measure accurately when he keeps turning around and trying to chew on the measuring tape.

Your puppy plays with tennis balls, ours like to drag pumpkins around the yard. The sizes range from a nice cantaloupe size to as big as a basketball. Oh yea, he also likes basketballs and soccer balls. Actually, he prefers soccer balls. It must be the English in him.

Foster likes chasing his tail. He LOVES it. That would be a fine thing usually. It would be a fine, self-sustaining activity. And, to some degree it is. Except Foster likes to be close to you. And when that mouth comes around, regardless of it chasing the tail & nothing else, and it grazes your knee instead ... well, needless to say you might just think JAWS swam by. Luckily his adult teeth have pretty much grown in, so your knee doesn't actually look like JAWS has been there. But still, cuss words tend to quickly fly.

He also doesn't seem to realize how big his body is in proportion the the room that he is in. He spins around and whacks his head on the edge of the kitchen island (you can see a corner in the photo above), and repeatedly knocks his noggin on the underside of tables.
Having survived almost 7 years of Shannon I am ready to respond to the WHAMS!! with 911 or at least a quick call to the emergency vet. Surely, his head must be split open. It hasn't been. He seems unfazed. I am amazed. I look at him in awe. He looks at me with those big brown eyes, unfazed and curious as to why my jaw is dropped.

We have a rule about no dogs on the bed. Ironically enough, I'm allergic to dogs (and cats, and so on). However, the allergies don't normally bother me. It is when they're allowed on the bed and near my pillow that I begin to not be able to breathe. So .. no dogs allowed on the bed.
There is a minor exception, we've always allowed them to put their front paws on the bed and say "hello." In fact, after Jomo passed that was what I missed so much - being able to wake up to a friendly face, waiting to be petted. So, Foster is allowed to put his two front paws on the bed.
Of course, this isn't a little dog. This is a dog who can stand on the floor at the right hand side of the bed and reach me ... with his paws .. and his head .. far .. far away .. on the left side of the bed. On the left EDGE of the bed.
If I've rolled over to nuzzle on Justin's side I'd better watch out. I've nearly woken up to black eyes a couple of times, paws whapping me in the face. He also has figured out about blankets ~ you know .. there may be people under them. That's ok, just start nosing around till you get your cold, wet nose & slobbery jaws under there.

Typical of Mastiffs, he sleeps a lot. Which is wonderful. We can sit around the living room in the evening, with him snoozing away soundly. And loudly. Mastiffs snore. And .... well, with a lot of aroma. Foster is a gas-bag. We actually bought some digestive enzymes to help decrease the nuclear attacks of farts (it worked some). Of course, he also likes to sleep under feet. And, if you've decided to raise your feet in the recliner, that's ok. He'll just sleep under that. Of course, if you want to get up ... you better be a yogi or gymnast.

And, when he isn't asleep, he is always on guard, also typical of Mastiffs. Apparently there is a reason we should all be on edge. There is this other Mastiff that, from time to time, goes and stands outside our living room window. It's amazing .. it looks just like Foster. And it only seems to appear in the window when Foster is looking out!! IT MUST NOT BE TRUSTED!!! We must growl at it to let it know it better not try to enter. And .. sometimes, these things appear above this other Mastiff's head. Weird floating hands. I mean, how can you possibly not go nuts over this!?!?! RED ALERT FOLKS, RED ALERT!!!!
Luckily, he hasn't gone through the window yet after this dastardly other Mastiff.

The rest of it all is standard stuff. You know, a 114 (and growing) pound dog that is timid about going out into the yard ... in the rain .. in the snow .. at night. Any of that.
And he likes to cuddle. In fact I think he thinks he might be a lap dog. A large, slobbery lap dog.
Speaking of slobber, our island was sporting a rather nice, several inch long, slobber-cicle last night.

Just part of another day with a Mastiff pup.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Why are you shocked?

A local incident has gathered nationwide media attention when a young girl went missing recently. She was safely found on the opposite coast. When she went missing Amber Alerts went out and her photo went up. She is 12 and looks much older. A lot of people have started talking for that reason. They are shocked.

I am NOT writing about just this girl in general here. I am deliberately not using her name for that very reason. This is by no means commentary on this personal girl. It is just something that many people are aware of and talking about & so it brings up the issue of young girls looking much older than they are.

And, in talking about it recently, someone asked me "Why would a 12 year old girl want to look 18?" ~ Obviously, a guy asked me this. If you're a female you've already responded "Why WOULDN'T they?!?"

Generations of women will attest to attempts to look older. The desire to actually be older. I'm sure generations of men will as well, but it is the females I'm talking about here.
I know I did. However, since my mother is known to read this, I will spare details to cover my own, now-grown hide.

What makes it all so shocking though is how very "grown-up" girls today now look. And by that I mean that they are oozing sexuality. And not in the good, wholesome kinda way. In the "how much for an hour" kinda way. I'm sure to some extent adults have always said this about younger generations, but it seems more prevalent now. Why??

Hmm .. good question. Let's think on that. What could POSSIBLY be giving these girls the idea that looking like whores is good? Hmm ....

This is 'Red Riding Hood Barbie.' I don't know about you, but this isn't what I remember Red Riding Hood looking like!! YIKES!!! I'm pretty certain that wolf there has money in his hand.

Don't get me wrong though, I'm not laying the blame completely at Barbie's 4" ho heels.

What I am saying is that if you give your children toys to play with and those toys look like street-walkers, then don't be shocked if your children grow up looking like street-walkers too. If you let them play video games full of violence, trampy looking female characters, and so on .. don't be surprised when the kids grow up desensitized to violence and without healthy perspectives of how adults should look .. much less act. If you buy them clothes that don't cover their bodies properly ~ and I'm not talking about anything too prudish here when I say properly, I'm saying more along the lines of 'ass not hanging out' kind of properly ... well, duh .. you're kids are gonna look like whores. Or at least people are going to likely think so.
If you raise your kids thinking you have a great relationship with them and you're judging that based on the fact that y'all are "best buds" .. well, then you're very misguided and don't be so shocked when your child tries to act like an adult rather than a child.

The responsibility lies with the parents. Sure, kids will still do things that we tell them not to, often simply because we tell them not to. But, you still have to do your job as a parent. Especially while they're still young enough that you can control most the things they do & see.

So .. why are you so shocked?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ho ho fucking ho.

Tis the Season.

After my annual holiday freak-out the other day (no, I haven't blogged about that one) I decided I needed to make up for it. I was going to decorate out front some. Justin would come home and be amazed at how beautiful the house (or at least the outside of it) was. The neighbors would be in awe. Cars would drive slowly by just to gaze at the merriment of decor. Martha Stewart would soon be calling for tips and I'd be featured in Better Homes & Gardens.

I begin hanging large, colorful decorations from the tree out front. As is customary whenever we are outside for more than five minutes and our evil neighbor is home, she comes outside, picks up a stray stick or two, and then leaves. She drives the opposite direction from our house. ~ I take this as a sign that the beauty of my Christmas decorating must be working as the Grinch has felt the need to flee it's cave.

Then the kids get up. First Shannon and I foolishly think that I can finish the last of my decorating (for now) while he stays inside. HA!! Then, because I don't ever seem to learn, I foolishly think that maybe Shannon and I can sneak outside while I finish the rest of this decorating while Tristan sleeps. Even bigger HA!!!! -- actually, I think I peed a little laughing at that last one.

Shannon willingly & eagerly gets on socks, shoes, & a coat, though we argue about which coat. Tristan begins whining when he can't find the socks that he took off during nap. Apparently they've become invisible. He's walking around, jacket over his shoulder, barefoot. I tell him to get everything on and come outside when he's done. = Mistake #1. This will never happen, we all know it won't, it will take several interruptions & back and forths before he is actually capable of joining us outside.

Mistake #2 & this is the doozy one: I clip a leash to a bouncy Foster and hand the other end to Shannon. I expect this to go well. After all, they're only supposed to be coming out on the front porch, sitting down, and watching me finish this last little bit of wrapping the columns. What could go wrong?? I mean, how could handing responsibility of a 125lb puppy to an almost 7 year old kid, who can't sit still either and weighs 60lbs, possibly go wrong?!?
On one of my trips back inside to help Tristan get fully dressed, Foster decides to follow me. There goes the little tree near the front door. Luckily no damage done.
Then Foster finds a pumpkin to play with. Yes, a pumpkin. Big dogs play with big toys. Anyway, I think this might be ok because he'll lay there and play with it while I quickly finish. I've already told Shannon to not try and take him into the front yard.

....... I have my back turned.

The pumpkin Foster is playing with goes rolling into the mulch. He goes after it. Shannon decides he doesn't like standing on the porch anymore, and since Foster has gone into the mulch he decides to go stand in the yard.

So - have you ever seen a puppy/dog get real wound up?? I mean REALLY wound up? You know, where they start running around in near circles like their butt is on fire?? And they're kinda bouncing in the middle of all of it?

Well, this is what I turn around to see, as I hear Shannon let out a cry. Foster has gotten all excited and wound up. He is running around in circles, circles that overlap Shannon who is still holding the leash but is now on the ground. I tell Shannon to let go of the leash & get up. I get Foster's leash but he's now in the insane gremlin mode. I have to tackle him and pin him down into some form of submission. I now lose my cool.

I growl at Shannon that I told him not to go in the yard, that I've warned him about trying to play with big dogs, & to go inside. I give Foster a bad dog whap and drag him inside & into his crate. I come outside and then growl at Tristan to go inside as well. I say things I regret. I contemplate burning down the house, or at least the column that I am trying to finish wrapping. I hear Martha Stewart putting me on the "do not call" list and Better Homes and Gardens finding someone else. I hear the neighbor's gossiping "those poor kids!" I hear someone saying "then why did she get a big dog?" - I think it is Shannon's voice in my head on that one. I am sad and beaten.

I finish the final column and drag all my decorating supplies inside and put them away. I hear the kids in on the computer, listening to Mister Rogers. I don't know why, but it induces a child-like cry from me. A "yes, everything is bad and wrong, please say something soothing and make it all better" type of cry. That doesn't happen though. I go change pants and toss my jeans, now covered in grass and dirt from tackling the dog, into the wash. I curse myself for losing my cool. For not seeing it all coming. For blaming it on anyone other than myself.

And that is how you know the holidays have officially begun. Tis the Season.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Glimpse of Insanity

I did a google search for 'insanity photos' and found this. I don't know what it is, but it is insane and it captures about how this morning is going. (PS - here is the link to it: - it is random enough for me to now have to spend an afternoon or an hour or so looking through later)

My point is, this has been a really odd morning. My last post was about the randomness of Tristan. Well, I gotta tell y'all .. the kid comes by it naturally. Here is my morning.

I wake up and just can't quite get going. Dragging, not focusing, feeling like I am in a dense fog. Coffee is calling me, though coffee does not like me. I think coffee has hidden agendas and secretly plots against me. Coffee is a double agent lurking in the pantry. The coffee has won this round as I brew up a pot.

As the caffeine begins to kick in my mind begins to really fly. I announce how windy it is and hope that a house doesn't fall on me. A friend replies that she hopes I am wearing red glitter shoes (my friend is not made up ... at least I'm pretty certain she isn't). I reply that I need red glitter mukluks, red glitter shoes, and a pair of shoes that curl up at the toe and have a little bell on them. And some luxurious Moroccan slippers. I imagine myself walking around the house in them. Actually, I might have hallucinated it. I feel like a Johnny Depp character on crack.

Now it is lunch time and I fix the boys their lunch. Because that is what you do at lunch, it would be silly to fix them anything else then. Both boys are dressed, and Tristan is wearing a shoe on one foot & a slipper on the other.
They are rattling on and on and on and on as kids are prone to do. Obviously I am prone to do this as well. It is half understandable and half not. Sometimes I think they're just speaking in grunts. Or that William Shatner has suddenly inhabited the body of my child and .... they ... start ... talking ... like ... this.

This conversation occurs:
Tristan ~ Mommy, do you actually cold snow?
Me ~ Do I actually cold snow?
Tristan ~ Yea. Do you actually cold snow?
Me ~ I really don't know...

Shannon then goes into a several minute long talk about what he does when he sees cold snow. I wonder if I've really had too much coffee &/or what was in my coffee. Is it possible to slip yourself something unknowingly?

Foster is now weaving around the table, pushing the chair around, licking the floor, and fitting BETWEEN the table and wall. This is impressive since all laws of physics and sciences would dictate that it is impossible for him to do so. I think I see the table try to walk out of the kitchen on his back.

Lunch is a mixture of random sentences, grunts, and feeling like everyone is speaking some weird language. The kids have gone goofy. Laughing at insanely random silliness (and this is a statement given the general insanity and randomness of the morning). I am now screaming at the kids to quit it & eat, because after several calmer attempts to get them to calm down and eat they are now saying nothing but just pointing at each other and I am still screaming for them to quit it and wondering what the hell am I on.
We have a bell on the back door that Foster is supposed to ring to let us know he needs to go out. He rings it far more often than that. He goes over to it and begins ringing it now. I think he just wanted to add to the general insane conversation.

So, I am still trying to get them to eat. Getting my kids to eat can be an amazingly long process, especially with Tristan. Out of nowhere, Tristan punches table then, in shock, looks at me crying because he hurt his fist. He wraps it up in his shirt and frowns.

Shannon is now done eating and wandering about. He lost his first tooth recently and has four more loose teeth. He asks me if I want to feel his loose teeth. I am reminded of last night's trip to Lowe's where we run into a friend (who also happens to be on City Council - so please kids act appropriate) and he asks her if she would like to wiggle his teeth.
Lesson repeated to Shannon: If people aren't related to you, don't ask them to stick their hands in your mouth.

I'm still trying to get Tristan to finish his food. He is chewing the same bite for five minutes. I swear I see the glint in his eye that says "this is on purpose you over controlling bitch!" All the while Shannon is now skipping through the house and humming some random tune, not a song, just a tune/noise. This, of course, happens after he says he is going to wait in the room for Tristan.

I have finally gotten the kids down for naps (or quiet time as the case may be for Shannon) and I think some bit of normality and sanity might be achievable. Then this conversation occurs:

Tristan, calling to me from his nap room ~ Mommy, I need you.
Me, heading in there ~ What?
Tristan ~ Bear's Bob Marley blanket has a big hole in it.
*said blanket is in on the floor in the middle of the room, I pick it up & examine the hole*
Me ~ How did it get a hole in it?
Tristan ~ Because I stuck my hands in there and then I put my head through it.
Me ~ *actually, I don't respond. I give him that 'you gotta be kidding me' look*
Tristan ~ That's why I need you to fix Bear's Bob Marley blanket. And I need Bear's smaller blanket with the little holes in it.

I don't let him have another blanket with more holes in it. I kiss him goodnight on his forehead. Somehow I get the feeling that I've also kissed all hopes of sanity for the day goodbye.