Happy Memorial Day!

We are thankful for all those who have served our country.....and for sand.

This was about the point at which Kurt asked: "So, how do we get rid of a sandbox once we no longer need it?"

Hmmmm, hadn't thought that far ahead actually. But hopefully that is many, many years down the road.



Bring Your Own Blessing

Of course there is "the box" which was partially converted into the Sand Box today.....and Marv's work in putting it together. Those are huge.

But I also have to mention a little story from yesterday. Solomon and I were at the grocery store later in the evening and he started to get very fussy, quite unlike him but not too unexpected at that time of night. Anyway, he had been riding in his car seat, inside the cart, and I ended up needing to take him out to hold him while I loaded everything onto the belt at the check-out line, leaving me only one hand to use to bag the groceries. Reaching for what I needed was certainly cumbersome with him in tow and really, it was a struggle. (For those of you out of state, we bag our own groceries here depending on what store you are at.) Not too long into the scene, a young guy, who was with his wife and child, had apparently seen my predicament and he came over and asked if he could please bag the groceries for me. Usually I would thank him kindly and say I was okay (thanks but no thanks) but it seemed that he genuinely wanted to help and in that instance, I truthfully needed it. So, I gratefully stepped aside and finished up the check-out process. It was such a warm moment, that offering of help.

Smiling as I left the store, it occurred to me that it is these random acts of kindness, whether from friends or complete strangers, that so often prove how much goodness there is in the world. So often we are consumed by media images of hatred and evil and brokenness but if we look around, we are also ever surrounded by pure, wholesome goodness. That's such a blessing.

Where have you found such goodness this week?


The Box

"In loving one another through our works we bring an increase of grace and a growth in divine love."--Mother Teresa

Really, I don't know why I am on a Mother Teresa kick, only that, everything I have read from her seems so downright full of goodness, it's hard not to want to read more. I guess the ultimate hope is to apply her teachings to our own lives instead of sitting here, nodding in agreement, feeling inspired but remaining unchanged.

At any rate, this week was a truly crazy week.....let me rephrase that, this week was like most other weeks. It was full and rich and teetering a wee too close to the chaotic side. In the midst of the craziness however, I was wholly reminded of how truly fortunate we are to have good friends. I had written an email to our dear friend Marv this last week, asking if he might be willing to help me with a project I was undertaking: making a sandbox for the kids. I had the plan figured out: 8 feet by 8 feet and 12 inches deep. It would be a perfect fit right under our deck so that in the heat of summer, the kids could still play while remaining out of the dangerous sun rays. The kids and I had already been to the hardware store, put the lumber together to look at the size and had bought some of the smaller materials to show our commitment that the rest of the box would get done this year. (I had hoped to do this last year but it never quite materialized.)

Anyway, Marv graciously obliged and on Monday morning we met at the hardware store to buy supplies. He helped pick out good pieces of treated lumber, made sure we bought the right screws (outdoor, deck screws),  approved the landscape fabric I had picked out and agreed to come back for whatever else we might find we needed. He then put it all in his minivan and off we went, back to the house where Marv pulled out all his own tools and then kindly let me help him get the sides screwed together before finishing the entire project on his own! What a gift!

He spent the morning trekking back to the store for the correct size screws, some wood stain and brushes, and the correct staples we needed to attach the landscape fabric before putting the braces in the corners, staining the sides and then putting the fabric on the bottom. I think I helped cut the fabric and a piece or two of duct tape, but Marv gets all the credit here. He came back a couple days later to add the corner seats, which he had already cut and sanded at home. After filling the holes with wood putty, he put the final staining on them and now we have the perfect box, ready and waiting....

Now, if we just had 4300 pounds of sand sitting around.....yes, you read that correctly. 4300 POUNDS of sand and that will only give us 8 inches! I was thinking of maybe just taking the kids to the nearby lakes and letting them bring home a bucket at a time from the beaches.....that would only keep them busy for let's say, the next 20 years or so.....

Actually, today will be the big day. Since my FLORIDIAN parents refused  to ship that much beach sand our way (ha, ha, I am just teasing), we'll head to Home Depot (some three or four or five times) to buy 88 fifty-pound bags of sand and dump them into the box one at a time (who needs a gym?!) Hopefully my role will include cutting open the bags and taking pictures while making smart alec comments about how it doesn't seem nearly as hard as I thought it would be (while the kids and I watch Kurt do the tough part of course)....

But I do have to offer a wholehearted thanks to Marv for offering up his time and talents to "help" me with the sand box (and by help, I mean completely doing it himself so that it actually got done this year!). We definitely are feeling loved! And we truly appreciate him! The kids are so excited and this will be the terrific weekend for the unveiling of our sand box. And who knows, maybe Kurt and I will actually be able to construct the covering ourselves, maybe.

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!


Peace People

"What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family." --Mother Teresa

"The Simple Path:
Silence is Prayer
Prayer is Faith
Faith is Love
Love is Service
The Fruit of Service is Peace." --Mother Teresa (And I would even go as far to circle it back around and say that within that peace is silence. But then, I'm NOT Mother Teresa!) 

About part way through the school year I had missed getting the kids to the bus stop on time and had to drive them to the upper campus where they could catch a shuttle bus to their school. As we were nearing the school Aidan announced that today was Peace People day. My inner-alarm started to stir as I had visions of hippies infiltrated their school....it's not that I am against peace mind you but I do have a problem with political views being crammed into the minds of young children, which is often what "peace" talk means. Teach children how to gain knowledge and think for themselves and then let them figure out their own political views. Just my two cents.

At any rate, my worries were cut short as we drove past a group of old people on the corner holding up peace signs. It was right out of the 60s; they probably were the same people actually as many of them seemingly haven't cut their hair since (or changed their signs) and gray it certainly all was. Their signs had peace signs and anti-war comments etc. Things most of us would agree with on a very ideological scale but most of us realize holding up signs isn't going to make it happen.

"Mommy, why are there peace people?" Lily asked as we were driving by.

"Well Lily, those people are out there because they believe in peace and they think that standing outside every Wednesday holding up peace signs is going to accomplish something but really, they are just filling their time."

"Why do they want peace? Doesn't peace mean quiet? Why do they want that?" she asked. (Let me point out that she probably really has no idea why anyone would want too much quiet! Apparently she isn't Mother Teresa either.)

"Peace can mean quiet but what they want is a different kind of peace. They want the world to stop fighting to solve conflict. Humans have a tendency to fight to solve problems and they want us to resolve problems in more peaceful ways, without war."

"Well, we can use math instead," Lily exclaimed eagerly. "Because math solves problems. In little Red Riding Hood, she uses math to figure out that that the wolf is not her grandmother...you know, in Elmo's World....and the three little pigs use math to solve their wolf problem too, and it's the SAME WOLF! Can you believe that?"

For a fleeting second there I had thought maybe the peace people had accomplished something.....you know, getting us to dialogue about peace....Alas, it's really hard to compete with Elmo!

"May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us." (Even Elmo!) --Mother Teresa (with peanut gallery comments from yours truly....)

Have a lovely, peace-filled day!



Woo hoo! I won! I won! I just knew entering these grocery store sweepstakes and filling out those silly surveys would one day pay off! Yippee! (The blessing is in the excitement that came from opening this I think, or perhaps it is simply the hopefulness every time I enter.....or perhaps it's the sheer satisfaction of winning after being told by one too many people that entering was a waste of time....but let's not gloat....) :)

Where have you been blessed unexpectedly this week?


Day at the Farm

Last week I alluded to an upcoming post about going to the farm. Well, here it is. (Better late than never!)

I had the privilege of chaperoning Lily's preschool field trip to Gale Woods Farm. To tell the truth, this is the one field trip I make sure to go on with each of my children. We love the farm (ok, I love the farm so they HAVE to love it, like it or not!) I can't do justice to all that takes place on the farm field trip but I did take plenty of pictures to share, so here is our visit to the farm, partly told in pictures.

We started by meeting Farmer Dan, an older farm hand who I am sure is doing his best; he just didn't seem to particularly like children much, or maybe he just lacks enthusiasm in general. Or maybe it was just OUR children, who knows. And while I try not to judge, it does make one wonder why he is working as a farm educator. At any rate, he first took us to meet the pigs cooling off in the mud.

Then we walked past the sheep and were given the instructions to keep our hands and body AWAY from the electric fence. And I became the sheep-dog parent trying to herd little curious boys away from the hyped up wires so they didn't keep getting yelled at by Farmer Dan, all the while thinking, "Well, they'll only do it once and it might be pretty funny to see....." but alas, I did my duty and will have to wait until next time to see if anyone accidentally forgets about the electricity.

Then we passed the lone chicken; I am guessing he is the rebel of the free roamers as he sat there, all alone by the fence just watching us pass by while all the other chickens were a hundred yards away, close to the safety of an outdoor coop. (Or perhaps he has just touched the fence one too many times.)

We made the trek down to the piglets who came running and squealing to see us.....because we had food to give them and apparently they like that. Lily was picking dandelions however.....and while they were quite perty down there on the farm, I didn't agree to allow her to bring them home for daddy; I didn't think he'd be appreciative given his hard work getting rid of them from our own yard.

Next we watched the meat cows go poop. Seriously, I am not being crass here. (Ok, maybe a little.) We just happened to arrive at that exact moment in time and the kids thought that was the neatest-grossest best thing ever. Ewww. (Don't worry, I didn't get that picture......yes, I tried, but Lily didn't get to the shot fast enough and well....oh never mind.)

And because they were not traumatized watching the elimination of meat cow excrement, Farmer Dan took us to see the milking cow next where he pointed out the chief difference between the milking cow and the meat cow: we don't eat the milking cow. Thanks Farmer Dan for that. (Ya couldn't have just told the four year olds we don't milk the meat cows? Or that one has long black hair and the other short brown?.....But, I suppose it is a fact of life....and death.)

Lily enjoyed learning how to milk the cow and was excited to give it a go herself until she squirted the milk all over her good shoes....shoes I didn't realize she was wearing until she had stepped into a puddle earlier on the dirt road. My bad. But the milk bath was by no means a show stopper. I just explained that Solomon drenches me in milk all the time and it washes up just fine. And his is already half digested! Yuck!

After milking the cow and then getting a good look at the new Wormery they are tending (if you don't know what a wormery is, you really ought to click on that link, Lily was thrilled, to say the least), we headed into the barn for my favorite part. I'm sure you (chickens) can't guess (chickens) what that is (chickens). First stop was the baby chicks that they raise for meat. Here they are looking at us looking at them. Or maybe they are planning their escape....

Again, Farmer Dan, thank you for the details on meat chickens, the kids may just go vegetarian now. Then we made our way through the chicken coop. It was fantastic. Farmer Dan took out a hen to show the kids and subsequently forgot to close the door. Never fear, Graceful Chicken to the rescue! I rushed over and was able to push the curious girls back inside. And since the clueless Farmer Dan was taking so long in his Hen and Egg dissertation, I knelt down and peeked inside the coop with my camera to take some eye-to-eye pictures. As if on cue, the girls started lining themselves up for the photo op. It was hysterical and I am grateful for the terrific chicken pics.

We then headed to the greenhouse to see what kind of goodies they had growing inside. That is where I started taking pictures solely to remind me of things to do in my own garden: Plant mustard greens, asparagus, rhubarb, put straw around the strawberry bushes, teach the kids to weed (thanks Farmer Dan for beginning that lesson), perhaps fence off various sections of plants by type, etc. etc.

Finally, it was time to go back to the sheep and spend some quality time with the mamas and their babies where the kids got a good dose of reality watching mothers go potty while simultaneously feeding their young. Ewww, or is it ewe!....  (I was telling Kurt all about it that night, in a kind of disgusted tone and then a few minutes later laughed as I was feeding Solomon and had to get to the bathroom RIGHT THEN....I suppose when nature calls, it calls....hey, just keepin' it real! I suppose we are just dignified animals after all, and that's being generous for some of us!)

I was fortunate to catch Lily all alone being sweet to a little lamb and then a few minutes later, she got a little sloppy surprise from another lamb who happened to think she was quite a treat. The salty sweat perhaps?

All in all, it was a terrific day. On the way home I told Lily, "Thanks for letting me come to the farm with you today. I had a great time. We should try to convince daddy to let us move to a farm one day, don't ya think?"

"Yeah!" Lily said giddily.  "Then we can have roosters......and giraffes."

Hmmm, not sure if she was paying attention AT ALL on the farm trip....I can just hear it now:

So, Karen, what do you raise on your farm?

Well, we have roosters.....And giraffes....'cause, you know, they taste a little like chicken.



Bring Your Own Blessing

I'm late this week because of my blessing! Solomon and I had the opportunity to travel to New York City this weekend for my sister's wedding. What a blessing to be with family and to celebrate the moment!

Blessings come in all shapes and sizes and are often hiding where you least expect them. Where have you found yours this week?

**Please note, if you are an email subscriber and trying to post a comment, you have to click on the title of the post (B.Y.O.B.) inside the email and it will direct you to the blog site published online. From there you simply scroll down to the end of the post and click on "comment." :)



Now, don't go gettin' all excited; Graceful Chicken is not having a drinking party. But you see, today is Mother's Day and it was a year ago on Mother's Day that Kurt and I realized that (oops) we were going to be blessed with a fifth child. So, to commemorate that blessing, we are going to do something a little different, something I hope you will all enjoy.

Back Story:

You see, I have this lovely friend, (one of life's greatest gifts) whom I have told you a little about. Her name is Kim and she somehow managed to have a third child while simultaneously teaching me how to not break my sewing machine and actually use it correctly. Anyway, she does this really great thing: every Friday she dedicates her blog to a single picture. To quote her: 'There are points in time I wish I could capture with pictures.  They fade before I realize their passing and life has changed in a second.  I've decided to dedicate every Friday post to one, still, quiet moment from where I sit.'

I was so excited about this concept, a single picture to try to capture life's blessings. I wanted to figure out a way to do it myself without completely stealing her thing. So, I found the perfect picture for this week and then another perfect picture and another (and then realized I would just have to blog about that Farm Field Trip...stay tuned) and then I thought, who am I kidding? I can't post a single picture and not comment on it! Kim is good at doing/being quiet whereas me, not so much..not even in Bloggerville!

So, while jogging on the treadmill today, I was reading an article focused on insights from a new book by Pema Chödrön, an ordained Buddhist nun. Now first of all, I had no idea there was such a thing, but have already added it to the long list of things I'll never be (see above statement on quiet). Secondly, well, actually there is no secondly but in the article, author Brian Johnson explains that we can increase our happiness by practicing things that, as Chödrön says, "incline our minds to joy." At the end of the paragraph, Johnson asks, "So, what can you celebrate today?"

And there was the "Ah-ha!" moment. Of course! We must be intentional, not only about inclining our minds to joy but also in celebrating with each other. Soooo, you are all invited to The Graceful Chicken's B.Y.O.B. party:

Bring Your Own Blessing (B.Y.O.B.): Each Sunday, starting right now, I am going to share one single blessing that I experienced in my life over the last week. And then (here's where you come in and the party starts), then I am going to ask you to do the same. Simply click on 'comments' underneath the post and share a blessing of your own from the week. It can be anything you want: a single word, expression, idea or story. (I'll try to keep it short if you do!) Each week we will share in one another's joy, thereby increasing our own. Even in life's most troublesome storms, blessings present themselves. Where have you found yours this week?


(Here's me struggling to NOT tell you all about the blessing in this photo: :{ Or is that me with a mustache.....hmmmm....)

p.s. Happy Mother's Day!



Sorry for the recent errors in my blog. While I try to keep to a fairly high editing standard, apparently getting a post out quickly is tough with a breast feeding (a.k.a brain-draining) baby, a 3 year old tugging at one arm and 4 year old at the other.....you get the idea. Thanks for your understanding and have a wonderful weekend!



Kidversation: Conversation that only makes sense in the world of children or that only children can get away with. (Apparently it isn't an original idea because if you google it, all sorts of stuff comes up...)

"Sonya, this is Jilly Bowl," Lily told her friend as I turned on the song "Piano Man" on the way to church.

"Lily, it's Billy Joel, silly girl," I corrected her.

"Oh, right, Billy Joel," she said. "Don't you like him?" she asked her friend. "Mom, turn on the part where he says he learns to dance with his hands in his pants." She laughed to herself.

I turned it to the right song while the girls listened quietly for the exact phrase Lily wanted her friend to hear.

When the line finished, Lily announced, "I just love Jelly Ball!"

Oooh, so close!


So, I had 6 kids in my truck: Liam and Solomon, Lily and her friend Sonya, Madeline and Matt. We were driving Matt and Sonya home and the kids were engaged in conversation about Madeline and Lily's upcoming trip. They were leaving the next morning to go to Pittsburgh with Kurt for a long weekend and the car was busting at the seams with excitement....well, at least the girls were and it seemed to be contagious. Oh, and I failed to mention, Madeline was bringing home her new pet fish that her class no longer needed as a class pet....Oh, wait just a moment....did you hear that? Listen carefully.....that is the sound of my parents laughing...at me. I can hear it now: "First a cat, now a fish....and so it begins." This is good old fashioned karma....

Anyway, I was not paying too much attention until I heard Madeline say:

"It's ok if our fish dies because we'll just see him again in heaven one day."

"Mom, do animals go to heaven?" Lily asked.

"Yes, Lily. There is an Am-i-nal Heaven," Madeline answered her. "What should I call my fish? Oh, I know. We'll call it Little Dot," she said. (Little Dot was the name of a cat that the kids really liked and wanted to bring home from the shelter so that Leroy would have a friend. We've considered reuniting them again, at the shelter...) Little Dot is a fitting name though....like the little dot the fish will make in the water when it takes it's final plunge into the toilet....or the little dot it will leave on the ground if it accidentally flies out the window by some unknown force....or the little dot of tarter sauce it would need to have any taste at all, all half a bite of it....

"Yeah, and you can call it Orangey for short," Matt said. Such an original nickname for the very orange goldfish though I am pretty sure "Little Dot" doesn't shorten to "Orangey." Yet everyone agreed: Little Dot would also be known as Orangey.

As I spaced out, thinking about Madeline's persistent mispronunciation of animal and how I couldn't say the word ambulance or deodorant until, well, maybe just a few weeks ago, I was brought back to the kidversation when I heard Madeline promising to bring Sonya a dolphin back from her trip because she was sure a dolphin would be a good pet.

"Well, I know what a king cobra is," Sonya replied. "My sister learned about them in school. It's a snake," she said. I wondered if she was listening to the same conversation that I was.

"Maybe you could bring me back a worm," Matt chimed in, bringing it back to the list of pets no one should ever have much less take with them on an airplane. "I'd like an earthworm," he said.

"Well, I want a worm instead of a dolphin," Sonya said. "But, I just want a plain worm, not an earthworm."

"I know why suckers are called suckers," Matt said (and now for something totally different....again..) "It's because you suck on it."

"I could also bring back red worms instead. They are like little baby worms and are red," Madeline told them having learned about worms in school this year, obviously in great detail....

"Yeah, I want a red worm," Matt told her.

"Well, I just want a regular worm, Madeline," Sonya said. I started wondering if I needed to notify Kurt to keep the girls out of the yard in PA, or at least to be on guard if they ask for containers on their way outside. Then I thought, nah, it'd be pretty funny if they actually tried to bring worms back, hee hee.

But the best car-talk was today. I was driving the kids into school this morning when Lily screamed out: "LIAM! It's MY TURN to find YOU! Now STOP COUNTING and HIDE."

I looked into my mirror and saw Lily and Liam both with hands over their eyes.

"One, two, three, four..." Lily began.

Liam followed suit: "Fi, sic, sev...."

"LIAM! It's NOT. YOUR. TURN! STOP COUNTING!" Lily screamed, throwing back her head of wild hair so she was facing the ceiling.

"Lily, are you trying to play hide and seek while strapped into your seat, in the car?" I asked calmly, recalling a very funny Louis C.K. skit about hide and seek....not appropriate for this blog yet somehow very fitting....(please only view if you are not offended by profanity!)

"Yes and it is MY turn to find him, not his turn," she said. Then turning back to Liam, "Now let's try again."

This time, Lily counts while both kids cover their eyes. She gets to ten, hands fly off her eyes and she immediately squeals, "FOUND YA!" He throws his arms out wide giggling. Ta-da! (Oh how I wish fun stayed that simple!)

"Ok, your turn Liam," she said, hands hiding her face.

Now, all this ride needs is a little Jelly Ball singing Organ Woman and we'll be all set.