Good part, bad part

We have a fire pit in the back of our yard built kind of lopsidedly out of broken bricks and a piece or two of cement from a long forgotten building.  We don’t have fancy chairs around it or solar lights or tiki torches, nothing that would find it’s way into a home and garden magazine, but it’s an important part of our lives nonetheless and we love it.  It was the first thing we built on our new acreage.  We all helped build it and we couldn’t wait to light our first campfire!  We build the first campfire of the year on the first reasonably warm evening in the spring and the last one of the year on the last reasonably chilly fall night.  There have been some evenings when I’m driving home from one place or another and I can see our campfire from the top of the hill about a quarter of a mile away from home.  I always think in my mind “Yay! Campfire!”  We roast hot dogs or have smores and have even made a full blown ‘survival meal’ out of goodness knows what all we can think up.  We’ve had many, many hours sitting in front of a fire singing, laughing, telling silly stories, counting stars, listening to all kinds of critters making their night noises, watching bats dive above us to catch bugs and sharing “Good part, Bad part”.

Good part, bad part is a way for us all to share with each other the good and the bad of our days and talk about it together.  We each go around the campfire circle from youngest to oldest and share what we loved or hated about our day.  When the kids were very little, the bad part usually consisted of falling down and getting an owie or something rotten that a kid at school had said and the good part was the batch of cookies I had made that afternoon or a birthday party they had been invited to. We didn’t always have advice or wise words of comfort for the bad parts.  Sometimes just a simple hug or telling them that we were sorry that a bad thing happened was all that was needed to make each of us feel better.  We always felt like when we left campfire, the bad part was left behind there too, somehow.

Now that the kids have grown a little older, the bad parts still consist of some scraped knees or when so-and-so said such-and-such, but the good parts usually consist of ‘being here at the campfire’, which warms my heart in more ways than one.  It’s the listening that counts.  Even if you don’t have anything wise to say that will make everything better, staring into those flames together in the quiet and the dark creates a trusting atmosphere that seems to lend itself to sharing your feelings.  Everybody needs that from time to time.  We’ve invited guests to our campfires and it seems as if they have the same reaction.  Maybe it’s being away from from the world and that little bit of “escape”, or maybe there’s some kind of trust factor that goes along with sitting in the dark next to the flames, I don’t know, but it’s real and it’s wonderful and it’s a part of our lives that I cherish.

It’s so nice to know that the kids enjoy our time talking together and that it means something for them to be around our humble little fire pit.  I hope that it has created wonderful memories for them like it has for me.


Levi and the Giant Peach

After moving to the country and establishing clear rules on nudity, life was quite wonderful on our acreage.  One fine spring day, I was snuggling with my son for his afternoon nap when I saw him, out of the corner of my eye, picking at his nose.  When I looked at what he was doing, to my horror I discovered that he had just pulled something green out of there.  I snatched it out of his hand and asked him what it was.  He said it was a baby peach. WHAT?

All things start small and get bigger and peaches are no exception.  In the early spring after the blossoms have drifted to the ground, or in the case of Iowa, been ruthlessly snatched from their branches by relentless wind,  baby peaches begin to grow.  My curious George had picked himself a pocket full and while we were sitting on his bed watching a movie together, he proceeded to shove them up his nose.  He stopped at 2, not because it was full in there, but because I discovered his scheme and put a stop to it.  Not, however, before one of the peaches had gotten quite tightly lodged inside his nasal cavity.  This could prove problematic as baby peaches are somewhat spongy and porous which means they soak up fluid, which just happens to be inside a human being’s nose.  The peach was not only stuck but it was growing!

Off to the emergency room we went.  The doctor gave me a funny look when I told him it was a peach.  He asked, “Is it a piece of a peach?”  “No, I told him, a whole peach, but it’s a baby.”  I guess, being a doctor doesn’t necessarily mean that he has any knowledge of how produce grows.  He sprayed some numbing medicine up in there and by this time my 4 year old was upset and had been whimpering for a while.  He turned a completely different shade of white when the doctor opened the package with the “extractor” in it.  This piece of shiny, stainless equipment was just a long tweezers, but to my son it looked like an instrument of death.  He cried, I held him, the doctor pried and dug and tried to grasp and could not reach that peach.  He told us we’d have to go to the city.

Thankfully, or not, the Children’s Hospital in the city had been notified that a young man with a peach in his nose would be arriving shortly.  When we got there, the nurses were all smiles, and not just because of their excellent hospitality skills.  They were all just SO EXCITED to see Levi and the GIANT PEACH.  Levi was in a little bit of pain at this point because the peach was indeed expanding with each sniffle, snuffle and wet drip that was headed in that direction.  The nurses kept giggling, and regaled me with tales of the interesting things they had pulled out of little kids’ noses.  Crayons, pencils, beads, erasers, coins, rocks, bugs, marker caps, grapes, raisins, but never, ever a PEACH.  I was so glad to be a first for them that I asked if they could comp our visit.  Their friendly smiles were instantly erased from their faces as they all answered with a resounding “NO!”

The process of extracting a peach is involved.  First, a small “papoose board” is brought into the room.  It really is nothing short of a straight jacket commonly used for the criminally insane, but this is scaled down to the size of a very small, criminally insane child.  They wrapped him up in that thing like a burrito, and I mean wrapped!  He had enough room to breathe, and that was it.  I was worried, but he was suddenly having fun.  A new, shiny and very much LONGER instrument was unwrapped and inched closer and closer to his face.  He thought it was all a big game.  I, on the other hand, was feeling a bit woozy.  The doc stuck that thing in his nose and pinched, pulled, pinched, pulled and little by little the peach was broken in pieces and pulled safely out.  Nurses cheered and giggled some more as we all gazed down at the broken peach laying on the tray.  I was quite sure they were sniffing some sort of gas from a tank in the back room because they were just too giggly for my taste.

The peach was out, the restraining device was taken off, and the paperwork began to process.  I made our way home and got the pleasure of trying to explain to my husband how in the world our son got a peach stuck SO FAR up in his nose that we had to practically have it surgically removed.  That was fun. Let’s not do it again.

This was certainly not to be the last trip to the emergency room that I would make, but it has stood to date as by far the most amusing.  I thank God for that curious boy and his wonderful, curious, adventurous spirit.  without him in my world, life would be dull.

The flock

When moving out to the country, one must have at least a couple of animals.  We brought a dog and a cat with us, but soon began wanting to branch out into keeping chickens.  One of our friends gave us some birds to start out with.  Harriet the hen, Roger the rooster, and Gus the goose.  We were thrilled!  We found out that chickens are very easy to care for and don’t require a lot of fancy or expensive equipment to keep fed and watered.  They do, however, need to be protected from city dogs that have absolutely no idea what a chicken is, and have a desire to chase and play with them.  This, sadly, is what happened at Poplar House.  Our border collie mix, Maggie, herded Harriet because that’s what herding dogs do.  Unfortunately, Harriet couldn’t run fast enough and Maggie caught her.  We found the poor hen dead and my city kids demanded that we have a proper funeral for her in the back yard.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m quite sure I’ve never been educated in proper chicken funeral protocol.   Do we say a prayer?  Ask God for comfort?  Does God care about our chicken?

The answer for us was found in Psalm 50: 10-11.  “For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills.  I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine.”

We thanked God for knowing and caring for Harriet the hen and asked Him to help us to do better taking care of chickens in the future.  I think the kids learned something that day about what a loving and caring Father we serve.  We had Roger and Gus for many years. Roger strutted around the yard large, in charge and never failing to remind us that the sun really was coming up every morning just in case we had forgotten.

Wild Indians

Our children were thrilled to be out in the middle of nowhere.  The nice thing about being out in the country is that nobody sees what you’re doing, for the most part.  We do have neighbors across the road from us, but it’s still nothing at all like living in the city.  Our son was 3 1/2 years old when we moved and I had been having a heck of a time potty training him.  Problem solved!  Let that little guy run around naked and he’ll get the hang of it, right?  He did get the hang of it, but not before he went across the road, naked, to the neighbors house.  The neighbor lady called me, very sweetly, and said “Um, your son is over here naked.”  OH. MY. GOOD. GRAVY!  I was horrified that he decided to drop by for a visit.  She giggled when I apologized and said it was no big deal, but I dragged his naked little body back home. Red faced and winded I realized that even though I had grown up on the farm and had an understanding of some basic do’s and don’ts, my kids didn’t have a clue.  We had a sit-down to go over the rules.

#1 – You must NEVER cross the road!  There are cars and trucks driving fast and they will squish you.

#2 – It’s NOT ok to be naked in front of the neighbors.

#3 – Yes, you can run around in your underwear in our yard.

#4 – You must never, ever walk into a cornfield.  If I catch you close to or trying to go into a cornfield you will be spanked.  It’s dangerous and it could kill you.  (their eyes got really big when I said that because there’s a cornfield on all sides of our acreage.  They thought we were surrounded by cornfield monsters)

The next day the kids wanted to play Cowboys and Indians.  I made a loin cloth for my son out of a brown paper bag decorated with arrows and feathers and then finished his look with some “war paint” on his face, arms and legs.  My daughter was jealous and wanted to be an Indian, too. I got her all painted up, put on her loin cloth and reviewed the rules with them.  They promised to stay in the back yard and went running out the door whooping and hollering.  It was so much fun to watch them having such a good time playing outside.  That is, until the real estate agent came by to take the sign out of our yard.  My phone rang and she said “I hate to bother you, but I came by to get the sign out of your yard and your kids are holding me hostage.”  WHAT?  I looked out the window and there were my children , standing at both windows of her car, pointing their plastic bows and arrows at her through her windows, NAKED…..AGAIN!!  Apparently there was a reason that loin cloths were made out of animal skins.  Because paper ones rip and fall off!  I hung up the phone, ran outside and told them to get in the house while apologizing to her over and over again.  She looked annoyed and like she was wondering if my children even HAD clothes and if it had even been a good idea to sell us the house.

Looking back on that day I can remember how truly horrified I was, but I have come to understand over the years that children playing outside, whether naked or otherwise, is a beautiful and magical thing.  They have endless energy and their minds are full of imaginative scenarios that they reenact with great aplomb.  Now that they’re much older, I miss those days.  Maybe not so much the nakedness, but certainly the innocence and free spirited playing and laughter that drifted through my windows on a summers breeze.

The History

The history of our house goes back a ways.  WAY back to 1905.  While I can’t claim to be able to blog all of it, my part of the history started in 2004.  My husband and I were raising two kids in the city.  We had both grown up in the country and both felt as if the experiences we learned there were so wonderful that we wanted to raise our two children in the country as well.  I had spent hours and hours perusing the local newspapers for an old house, but we were both getting very tired and frustrated by the hunt.  Finally, I promised my husband that I would quit looking, quit dragging him around to look at places and let God show us the place He wanted us to have.  So the next day, while looking through the paper…..oooops!

I spotted it.  I knew I had to see it.  I think the ad read: “5 bedroom Victorian house on acreage” or something similarly enticing.  I threw (not literally) the kids in the back of the car and drove, and drove and drove over an hour from where we lived.  Then the real estate agent piled us in her car and we drove some more.  Where the heck were we?  Where the heck is this house?  Finally, we pulled up to the driveway and I literally cried.  There,  standing proud if not a bit weathered before me was the answer to my prayers.  An old, fancy (kind of) farmhouse with an old barn and a chicken coop and chipping paint and huge, ancient trees…and….it was perfect! We looked through every nook and cranny.  The kids ran around in the yard with smiles on their faces. As we excitedly drove and drove and drove back home, my fears grew a little bit.  What if my husband got mad that I went looking at another house after I told him I wouldn’t?  What if he didn’t like it?  What if we couldn’t get it?

Thank goodness he agreed to go look at it.  We took our best friends along and made the trek to see that house again the very next day.  We talked about how far away it was from his job.  We talked about how much work it would be to fix things.  We talked about how many crappy things could go wrong.  Hubby said “Let’s go for it!”  YAAHOOOOO!  The next couple of months were a blur.  We spruced up our little city house and put it on the market.  The real estate agent literally had somebody stop to ask questions while she was pounding the For Sale sign in the front yard.  We had multiple offers and sold it for above asking price in 2 DAYS!!!  When does that ever happen?  When God has plans for you.

We moved into our farmhouse on July 15.  My parents and our friends helped us pack all of our things up and we headed out of the city.  We signed the papers at the bank with the caravan of family and friends waiting in the bank’s parking lot with all of our stuff.  As soon as we pulled into our yard I grabbed my dad’s arm and did a jig with him singing the Green Acres song.  It was my dream come true!

That very first night, on July 15th we had no electricity.  It was going to be hooked up the following morning.  It was the DARKEST, HOTTEST, QUIETEST night I’ve ever tried to sleep through before or since!  In the middle of the night when neither one of us could sleep, I asked my husband “What the heck did we get ourselves into?”  He chuckled and said, I don’t know, but I’m not moving out of this place until I have to go to the nursing home.”   Nor shall I