12.22.2014

Top 10 Warning Signs…..

Top Ten Warning Signs That Your Chicken Obsession Has Gone Too Far:

1. When someone asks your three year old what says, "Bak bak, bak bak, bak bak," he points to you.

2. Your spouse tells you that you are starting to kiss like a chicken….so you peck him on the cheek and waddle off.

3. Anytime you see something move in the grass, you quickly stop and scratch at the ground with your foot to see if you should catch it, you know, for the chickens….

4. You consider naming the store bought chicken you bring home because, 'that chicken was a somebody at some point too ya know!'

5. You talk to your hens as if they could understand you or would actually give a hoot even if they could. (And then get mad when they ignore your requests…..)

6. You tell your six year old son to go wake up his brother. He runs upstairs and you hear him crow: "Cock-a-doodle doooooo!" (Presumably right in his brother's ear….)

7.When your neighbor gets all giddy because he "got you some chicken poop" you know exactly what he means and you get totally excited too because you have never had the chance to actually use the Chicken Poop (chapstick) that you had blogged about years before. (I can now confirm it is better than the real thing….hee hee.) Thanks, Big E!

8. It takes you a week to get the lights on your Christmas Chicken Coop just right (including taking down the first batch because you are pretty sure the hens don't like the chintzy looking multi-colored lights that match the lights at the chicken-hating neighbor's house……because every time they, the hens, not the neighbors, are out they try to peck at the blue ones…..) And even after settling for red lights with a white star on top, you are already plotting in your head how you might do them differently next year.

9. and 10. (Yes, this one really deserves at least two places….) You are happily making your typical old Christmas cookies when you notice that your "harp" cookie cutter produces cookies that look just like little chickens! After several dozen little chicken cookies later (and irritating two little girls in the process, both of whom work very hard sneaking in a bell and a tree and a heart whenever they can) you vaguely remember the great big metal chicken form (wall decor maybe?) that someone gave you as part of a gift basket last year so you ecstatically send your kid up to grab it while you make another two batches of dough so that instead of making little trees, bells, ornaments and snowmen you make this:




The World's Most Gigantic Christmas Chicken Cookie



Or perhaps the World's Only Gigantic Christmas Chicken Cookie….
you know, not including the FIVE FOUR OTHERS you made (the first one took a dive for the worst as we got the hang of maneuvering these Gigantic Roos from parchment paper to baking sheet.)



It really puts a new spin on "baked chicken" doesn't it?
And then, as you are merrily baking, you begin telling your children the REAL story behind the Wise Men….you know, the one where it was actually the Christmas Chicken that lead the Wise Men to the stable….. it was dinner time, after all, and those Christmas Chickens were TERRIBLY hungry. Thank goodness for the Great Christmas Chicken or else poor little Jesus's birth might have been completely overlooked, he'd have gone totally unadorned, the Wise Men wouldn't have delivered any gifts and we'd be out a Christmas carol or two, at least. And THEN, as if that weren't bad enough, Santa would not have thought to start bringing presents to all the little girls and boys and Christmas as we know it would not even exist! (And all us modern parents would sing praises of joy!) So YOU'D BETTER BE THANKFUL FOR THE GREAT CHRISTMAS CHICKEN!!!!

My kids didn't buy it either. Whatever. These little cluckers are gonna rock as Christmas gifts for my neighbors though. They will be iced and decorated and wrapped with a little tag that simply says: 

Merry Clucking Christmas.

And the best part, if you receive one of these as a gift, you know you are either one of my very favorite people ever, or one of my least favorite…..it's like a clucking Christmas mystery. And if you just don't care one way or the other, simply bite the little pecker's head off and forget it ever happened. 

Best. Christmas. Cookies. EVER!

Thank you, O' Great Christmas Chicken!*





*Keep shaking your head Kurt….it only gets better from here!



12.20.2014

My Kids Have Issues (But Would You Expect Anything Less?)

****

Solly: Mom, how do you spell naked?
Me: N…..A……wait, what?
Solly: No, I mean, can you write the word naked on my picture? (He hands me the picture he has scribbled and I write "naked" across the top.)….. Now can you write the word "teacher"?
Me: Um, no, absolutely not. 

****

I sang to the boys the other night. It was the first time in years….Twinkle, Irish Lullaby, Little Bunny Foo Foo, Hush a Bye Baby (which somehow included "if that diamond ring don't shine, papa's gonna buy you a porcupine….if that porcupine's no fun, papa's gonna buy you an air soft gun….." it was all smooth sailing from there…) Then I took requests, Baby Beluga, The Star Spangled Banner, Take me Out to the Ball Game, and when I said, "Ok, one more," Liam requested I Drive Your Truck and Solly insisted, "No, let's do Ten Rounds of Jose Cuervo!"

Oh, if only they would..bedtime would become a piece of cake. 

****


So, a friend posted on Facebook a link to watch James Taylor playing Christmas music on the guitar. It was delightful, as JT tends to be. Aidan was watching over my shoulder and at the end he says:

"Wow, if that guy could only sing he'd probably be famous."

really don't think he is mine actually. So, I sent him to bed hungry and told him he couldn't come back out until he could play or sing even half as well as JT. 

I'm gonna miss that kid……maybe.  

****

Me (after running my fingers through 3 year old Solly's freshly washed hair): Solly, what is that in your hair???
Solly: Ah, it's jus' some ticks. (I swear I heard a country twang.)
Me: Um, if you have ticks on your head we should probably remove them.
Solly: Nah. I like 'em there. Ticks belong in the hair.
Apparently I'm raisin' me up some hillbillies folks! Next thing you know, he'll be out there punching the chickens to keep them in their place…..oh wait, he already does that, too. 

…Kids these days, I tell you what….. 

****




12.19.2014

Thanksgiving Highlights

While Thanksgiving is long gone and far away from what is the week before Christmas (ALREADY!) I had to share a couple of my favorite moments from our first Turkey Day trip down to Florida in what has been far too many years.

My mom is a true southerner……when she talks about it "being cold up north" she is referring to where my brother lives in Gainesville. (Look it up if you don't know where that is.) So we had just arrived, after 18 traveling hours, and were in the kitchen, getting dinner ready when I realize I am sweating.

Me: "Mom, I'll be right back. I'm just going to turn the air conditioning down a little."

My mom, sounding a little surprised that I need to adjust the air: "Well, I just turned it down to 78 degrees."

Uh, yeah, and there in lies the problem!

*****

After a couple of days at my folks' place we traveled inland to my Grandmother's house. GiGi just turned 96 this year. She is doing fabulously and we were excited to spend some time with her. But it can be a little much for all those kids and cousins to take over her house so I kept sending the kids outside to play. On one such occasion, the adults decided we would sit outside on her patio and get some fresh air as well. Solomon came over with a cup full of ice cream and was complaining because he had blue marker on his fingers and wanted me to wash it off. So enraptured by our conversations, I really didn't want to get up and take him inside (or perhaps that is laziness….) so I kept telling him we would wash his hands AFTER he finished the ice cream. Stubbornly, he didn't waiver in his request. My uncle took over:

Uncle: "Solomon, did you know that eating ice cream helps get rid of blue on your fingers?"

Solomon didn't seem to believe him but he was listening.

Uncle (full of enthusiasm and sincerity): "It's true! Start eating your ice cream and the blue will start to disappear. Go ahead, try it!"

Solomon slowly started eating the ice cream. Then he remembered his blue fingers.

Solomon (holding out his hand): "It's not working."

Uncle: "Oh Solomon, you have to eat more ice cream than that. It just takes a little more ice cream to make the blue go away. Keep eating!"

Solomon started eating his ice cream again and just as soon as I thought he had forgotten the fingers my uncle says:

"Oh look, Solomon! I think it is working! Your fingers are not as blue as they were a few minutes ago. Keep on eating that ice cream!"

Solomon obliged. And of course, after he finished his ice cream, he had completely forgotten the blue fingers and off he went to play with the other kids.

A few hours later, we were in the kitchen about to prep for dinner when Solomon walked in on a mission.

"Mom," he frantically says, with as much seriousness as a three year old can muster. "My fingers are blue again. I need more ice cream!"

Smart boy…..sort of.

*****


Have a great day everyone and all the best in your holiday preparations. For those of you who are (smartly) simply awaiting the birth of their lord, kudos to you. Enjoy yourself while the rest of us are frantically cursing at the school because, SERIOUSLY?! A TWO HOUR DELAY TODAY????? Good heavens! Are you TRYING to give all us parents (who were using this last day of school before break on last minute Christmas preparations) heart attacks??? Sheesh!

WHAT! YOU ARE NOW CANCELING SCHOOL TODAY!?!?!?!? 

You have to be kidding me.




12.15.2014

One Year

It has been one year since Pennsylvania welcomed us.









We have learned. We have laughed. We have cried and cried some more. (And I'll admit to a little cursing here and there along the way……that Solomon, I tell ya….) It has been nothing short of an adventure. And that is why we are very sorry to see it come to an end so quickly…





The first glimpse of our home last December.








JUST KIDDING! 

Sheesh. I almost gave myself a heart attack just writing that! Anyway, it has been a while and I just thought I would share this important milestone with you. We landed here a year ago and have not been the same since. And that's not such a bad thing as it turns out. 

The days we live for here in Western PA
Here's to a year down and many more to go! Cheers!

11.08.2014

When Executive Functioning Takes a Vacation, Part 2

So, I had gotten through Pumpkin Math and reset my mind to Liam's class party. I had volunteered to buy and bring the snacks because I couldn't see myself organizing crafts or games right now and even if I could, I was the only mom at the planning meeting who didn't bring a million printed Halloween Party ideas with me so buying snacks seemed easy and mindless. Money might not be able to buy happiness, but it can certainly get you out of ruining Halloween craft time for 20 first graders!

And if it weren't for the fact that this school has a very specific snack list, one in which you have to get certain brands and not others of the exact same item, or the fact that included in those other moms' lists were decorated snacks like mummified juice boxes and pumpkin faced fruit cups, things I was now on task for, this would have been a total no brainer. But after buying all the snacks at Costco and then having the school nurse turn them down, each and every one, because the brands were not on the "approved snack list" I realized my easy role actually required a little more thought and planning.

So, it was the day after Lily's Pumpkin Math, the day before Liam's party and I had finally gotten all the food and had finished mummifying the juice boxes. (If you have no idea what that means, go to this article in Parents Magazine  to understand why I might hate Parents Magazine and the crafty moms that are behind it…..) My most endearing neighbor had searched high and low for googly eyes and I had just finished gluing them on the juice boxes, telling her that the party was tomorrow and I was totally ahead of the game because I had already finished most of what I had to do, when I sat down to my computer to give myself another Mommy Star and saw this email sent from the class mom's iPhone:

--Karen, is everything ok????…..

It was 2:30 and I was about to go pick up Solomon and his friend from school but wanted to get back to her before I forgot so I wrote back: "Yup. Just finished the Mummy Boxes and will put the faces on the fruit cups tonight. See you tomorrow."

Then horror struck and I wrote again:

"The party IS tomorrow right????" I went to my calendar: the party was scheduled for the following day.

Ding!

---No, it's today!---

What followed was sheer chaos. I had put the party on my calendar for the wrong day. It had started at 2 and would end at 3 and it was now 2:35 and I HAD THE SNACKS!

"Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh! KURT! The party is today, I have to go, I have to go! You have to go pick up Solomon, Oh my gosh! I can't believe I did this! Oh my gosh! I have to go!!!"

Kurt was so pleased with me.

"Where's my phone? Oh my gosh! I can't believe I did this! Oh my gosh!"

Kurt calmly grabbed his keys as I loaded my arms with two boxes of UNFACED fruit cups, a box of mummified Juice Boxes, three bags of assorted cookies and snacks and "Where's my phone!? Oh my gosh, I can't call you, I will call you, just go, go, go, oh my gosh! WHERE THE HECK IS MY PHONE?!"

I will not say how fast I drove down the curvy back country road, or how many times I honked at other drivers to keep them from pulling out in front of me, but I was in the parking lot by 2:40. I ran inside the school, Mummies falling out behind me, frantically explained to the front office that I hadn't realized the party was today and I had the snacks and for the love of God can someone please help me! She buzzed me through without a question (note to future bad guys, just act like you are supposed to be there, like an hour ago, and they will let you in, easy peasy!) and darted down the hall, bags ripping, people staring….I may have even knocked into a kid dressed up like superman but I am not certain…..without a breath left in me, I reached the classroom and dropped everything on the nearest desk. The entire class looked up in their costumes (except poor Liam who DIDN'T EVEN HAVE A COSTUME YET!) and the other moms rushed to help (I think more to calm me down than to worry about snacks) as I repeatedly apologized for my blunder…..

Once I caught my breath I asked to use one of their phones to call Kurt.

Me: Kurt, you have to pick up Cody too.
Kurt: Ok, who's Cody?
Me: That's our neighbor's kid.
Kurt: Which neighbor? I don't even have car seats. And I am driving around but have no idea where the school is. Where am I going? (I began to suspect a hint of frustration in his voice.)
Me: It is the church across from the gas station (the benefit of a small one-gas station town….) and it's around back. Just stick them in your car and go home. I will come home right now and take Cody.
Kurt: I missed a business call for this. (Yup. Definitely frustration.)
Me: Ugh. I am sorry. I'll be right home.

When I finally got to Liam's table to distribute snacks, Liam grinned up at me and eagerly announced: "Mom! Guess what, Mom?! I'm on Yellow! I'm having a good day today."

Deep exhale.

"Awesome job, little buddy. Keep it up until the end of the day, and I'll see you at home!"

The little girl across the table held up her Mummy Juice: "I'm done," she said, rather defiantly.

"Great. You only get one. Hope you liked it. Now you can play with the mummy," I said.

Another kid told me he didn't like the Twizzlers I was passing out for them to use to make Spider Legs for their Oreos.

"Awesome. Then I don't suggest eating it," I replied, teeth now slightly gritted, though still smiling, kind of.

Apologizing again, I left the classroom and rushed back to the house to find Solly and his buddy playing quietly upstairs. Kurt was tickled pink with the perfection of my mess…at least that's what I'm going with, and he went back down to work as I took Cody home. On the way back, Solly and I stopped by my relaxed-and-totally-on-top-of-things neighbor's house to pick up the tickets Aidan needed for the hockey game that night. As I recounted my day, my neighbor's mom, who was there to celebrate my friend's son's birthday, chuckled delightedly at my tale of woe. I was glad to offer some amusement for their day and then they asked if I might have some birthday candles they could have. Happy to help, I told them I would go get the candles, pick up the kids at the bus stop and be right back. They offered to keep Solomon until I returned since he had already dumped out some toys and was playing quietly. Back to the house to grab the candles and then to the bus stop to grab the kids, I went. As I got close to the bus stop, the kids were already half way up the street so I sent Aidan running up to our friends' house to give them the candles. Apparently Liam had not been very kind to one of the neighbor kids on the bus so I had to speak with the two boys and have Liam apologize for his behavior. By the time we finished the conversation, Aidan was in the car and on home we went.

The babysitter arrived as I was getting the dinner on the table. I proceeded to tell her what her job was that night and when I got to the part where she was going to bathe Solomon, I stopped short: Wait, where's Solomon?

Out the door and back to the car I ran, and back down to the neighbor's house where my dear friend was sitting on the floor playing with Solly.

"You were just waiting to see how long it took me to figure out you still had my kid weren't you."

"Yup."

That's when you know a friend is a keeper.

And that your brain has officially left the building. Let's just say, I plan on giving my Executive Functioning System a raise if it ever comes back. Apparently, it, too, is a keeper.

11.07.2014

When Executive Functioning Takes a Vacation, Part 1

Last week, without giving me advanced warning, my Executive Functioning System decided to take some unpaid leave. (Yes, this is a system….it's like the Cardiovascular, Endocrine or Nervous systems only on the cognitive level. And I might be making this crap up but just go with it for the sake of this VERY NON-SEXY post……shoot, I think I just lost half of today's unintentional readers…..)

So, earlier in the week I had awoken to this feeling that there were way too many balls being juggled in the air and I was surely about to drop a dozen or so of them (which Kurt repeatedly confirmed in his panic attacks over having too many balls up in the air…..) I checked my calendar and everything looked normal (which means it was a constant stream of insanely crazy chaos….how's that for redundant?!….but nothing out of the ordinary.)

At any rate, this year I decided I would make an effort to volunteer in each kid's classroom at least once before the school year was out. That may seem weak to some of you ├╝ber-awesome-moms who are in the classroom weekly and live your life to be the teacher's pet, er, I mean, to be engaged in your child's education, but for people like me who are consistently skating by, hardly able to keep up with the bare minimum of household responsibilities (because chickens are so much more enjoyable than laundry….seriously, they totally are….but really, so is stepping on legos in the middle of the night when your three year old has peed his bed for the third time that week….), the idea of making it into a classroom and being held accountable for helping another 20 kids is like standing at the bottom of Mt. Everest, getting ready to trek up the mountain only naked……and without gear….. or legs. Ok, poor choice of images but really, some of us are just not the classroom volunteering type. I'd rather attempt Mt. Everest with a pack of live hens than have to go judge a teacher by their class for two hours. Wait, what?

Anyway, so I missed out on volunteering for Lily's class parties (she forgot to give me the form which I found a week after the deadline up in the attic being played with by the cats) and so I volunteered to do "Pumpkin Math" instead. She brought home the packet for me and told me repeatedly we needed to bring in a pumpkin. I questioned her regularly because NOWHERE in the packet did it mention needing to bring in a pumpkin but the night before, we went and picked out a small white pumpkin ("Because we will be the ONLY GROUP TO HAVE A WHITE PUMPKIN, MOM! I. MUST. HAVE. A. WHITE. PUMPKIN!") just to be safe. (She was totally right on both counts.) I read the cover letter twice the night before, making sure I understood my role; flipped quickly through the packet, skimming the instructions so that I knew what we were doing; and then put a HUGE GOLD STAR on my mommy chart for being so on top of this volunteering thing. Bam! I got this.  

The day of the Pumpkin Math, after my alarm had gently reminded me that I needed to be at the school, I calmly grabbed the packet, the very WHITE pumpkin that would make our group Lily-original….Lilyriginal….. and headed contently down the lane to the picture perfect school. Which is a complete and total lie…..what really happened is that I was outside trying to wrangle the chickens back into the coop when my phone reminded me a gazillion times that I needed to get to Lily's school but there was this one hen who would not cooperate and after chasing her around and around the coop for over twenty minutes, while simultaneously burning the three Halloween Cookie Cakes I was making for our neighbors and sending away an electrician because I misunderstood what he was there for because I had failed to communicate at all with my nearly frazzled husband, I scrambled into the car, forgetting to grab the pumpkin, bolted back inside, realizing I had burnt the cakes, cursed a few times while I dumped them into the trash, grabbed the pumpkin, and drove like a bat out of hell to get to the school, praying all the while that dumping hot, burnt cookie cakes into the trash wasn't going to burn my house down…..and shoot, did I turn off the oven?

I signed into the office, right on time, (the last parent to arrive but really, did you guys need to be ten minutes early? No! Suck-ups.) and then noticed I was the only one carrying a pumpkin and the only one NOT carrying a bag of accessories like bowls and spoons and carving knives.

Me: "Ok, so, apparently I am THAT parent and didn't realize we were supposed to bring knives…..where did it say we needed to bring that stuff?"

EVERYONE ELSE: "It was in the packet."

Me: "Seriously? But I read through the packet. There was no supply list in mine. Where in the packet was it?"

Silence. No one knew how they knew but EVERYONE knew to bring the supplies. Everyone but me.

Goody-two-shoes: "Oh, don't worry about it. I brought plenty of extras just in case. You can borrow mine."

Me: "Of course you did." Ok, so I just thought that; what I actually said was, "Ooooh thank goodness! Thank you so much! I really appreciate it. But at least I remembered the pumpkin." This was met with quizzical looks by every last parent. Because they are all jerks. And they obviously don't understand the work that goes into getting hens back into the coop…..shoot! I left a hen out….dang hen.

As we walked to the classroom, I flipped back through my packet. Still no supply list. Then, as we began the group project, I saw (on page three), the very first instruction was: Parents, please bring in a bowl, spoons and a carving knife.

Come on, seriously? PAGE THREE?!?! Don't you think that little bit might have been on the cover letter where those severely challenged parents (you know, the ones who only skim the packet) would actually have the chance of seeing it?

At any rate, it all turned out just fine. And even though I was the only parent whose phone camera had no more space left and so could not take a nifty group photo of my child's class behind their five orange jack-o-lanterns and ONE WHITE ONE, I left feeling like I could at least keep my gold mommy star another day, after all, ours was the only jack-o-lantern with 3D cat ears held in place by toothpicks…..and it isn't like I totally failed to go or anything ridiculous like that……

-To be continued-







11.06.2014

Sorry to Disappoint (But What Did You Think a Sexy Silkie Was?!?!)

Boring Fact: Graceful Like a Chicken averages around 70 page views a day. After a post has been published, the views reach closer to 200. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

These are not bragging rights. The Graceful Chicken has a very small but lovely following. I have conversed with many readers, some I know well, some I have only just begun to know, and then there are those who have contacted me for all sorts of interesting reasons; very nice people I will likely never meet. And I thank you all for stopping in, whether a loyal fan or an unintentional reader just passing through. (Except Mr. Anonymous who keeps spamming my comments in attempt to get me to click on junky links…..you can go away now[insert juvenile name calling here].)

Interesting Fact: My last post, Sexy Silkies: A Pre-Halloween Tale, generated 1,773 page views. Seriously. It really begs the questions: WHAT THE HECK DID YOU THINK I WAS WRITING ABOUT PEOPLE?!?!? I mean, come on! Sexy Silkies….really?! Chickens people, I write about chickens! (And other non-perverted topics like kids and annoying things and God and humorous sufferings and a little lingerie along the way but that was funny and embarrassing and not meant for ogling!!)

One can only guess what that many wandering readers were looking for (and if you are sitting there thinking about it for more than a second, please remove yourself from your computer and take a nice brisk walk to collect yourself…..and retrieve your head out of the gutter!)

The best part is that as the large number of page views caught my eye this morning, I got all excited: I FINALLY wrote something that got some attention! Yay! They noticed my story and liked my writing enough to pass it along! YIPPETTY-DO-DAH! So, of course I wanted to know what the difference was between that and every other post I have ever written……

Hee hee hee…..it all comes back to sex folks. I'm a slow learner here but apparently there are some key words that need to be included in a post title to grab some (unwanted) attention. So from now on, I am going to make sure to give each post a scantily dressed name, douse it in cheap perfume and send it out to the streets where it can generate scores of hits. I just wanted to give you a fair warning in case you see the Graceful Chicken standing on the corner in stilettos with one, fish-net covered leg exposed through an extra high slit in her tight leopard print skirt. I worry she won't be able to get away from the neighborhood bear in an outfit like that but alas, we can't hold their hands forever.

Sheesh.








10.23.2014

Sexy Silkies: A Pre-Halloween Tale

I told the kids that if anyone wanted a new Halloween costume this year, they had to be a chicken. I had visions of sending five mummified or zombie chickens over to our neighbor's house the week before Halloween, you know, to deliver a dozen fresh eggs and to offer our truce. Then Kurt, who actually cares about our kids' social lives, stepped in and told the kids they didn't have to be chickens and just like that my plans to do good were thwarted….again.

But yesterday, when I went to the Party Store to look for the costumes the kids wanted, I found all sorts of things with which to create the ultimate Chicken costume. I found a ridiculous (re: totally awesome) Chicken Face mask, stuck it in my cart and then realized I could also create a Black Silkie Chicken with very little problem (and far too much money.) So then the two hour issue of the day became do you go with a standard yellow chicken with the super, incredible mask or try for something more sultry…..The Sexy Silkie look perhaps?

It was when I got home, in the privacy of my own bedroom, that I realized a very profound fact: there is nothing sexy about chickens……nothing! I mean, add enough feathers and a tail and a beak and apparently I would have to settle with the "Confused Chick…en" guise or just go with the chicken head alone.

And then, as if on cue, Kurt came home from the hockey game he had been to and although he did do a double take, he opted to walk right on by me all decked out in feathers and who knows what. I am pretty certain he was trying to erase the image from his memory when I walked into the kitchen to ask for his opinion.

Kurt: I'm glad to see you are focused on truly important things…..(insert lots of words, words, words…..) Why don't you just be a cowgirl who herds chickens…..You have the boots and jeans, just get a hat and lasso* and put a leash on one of the chickens and take it with you to the party. (Ok, so I might have added the part about getting a hat and lasso but seriously, I have to be in character, Kurt! And really, who ever heard of a chicken on a leash??? WAY TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX! You so totally rock, Sweets!)

Me: Ooooooooh! That's a GREAT idea!

Kurt: And is it my imagination or did I see you out there trying to wrangle the chickens with rope the other day?

Me: Um, yeah, I did that. In my defense, that darn hen would NOT cooperate so I though maybe I could just lasso her with the twine laying there but once I actually got it around her neck she panicked and I was afraid she was going to snap her own neck so I had to let go and……(I am pretty sure I was talking to myself at this point because Kurt's face had glazed over as he entered his happy place, which apparently doesn't include a wife who wrangles chickens with twine nor one that dresses up as a Silkie, sultry or otherwise.)

Kurt: Gotcha. (He really doesn't I don't think but I'll give it a pass for the fantastic costume idea.)

Me: Ok, so take back the Sultry Silkie stuff which makes far too big of a mess and is giving me allergies anyway and go with a Chicken Herder outfit.

Kurt: Um, what's a chicken herder?

Me: Seriously……IT WAS YOUR IDEA!


But now that I think about it, this is a costume party we are going to and I am basically dressing up as…… myself.






10.10.2014

Because They're Chickens

I love real farmers. I love real farmers almost as much as I love real chickens. While my chickens regularly channel their inner Rhett Butler, leading us into fairly routine scenes where I play the role of Scarlett and they frankly don't give a damn, farmers take on an entirely different role, though with the same net result.

Honestly, there is truly nothing like a real farmer to make a novice, hobby farmer feel a little stupid. It might come as a surprise, but I have that kind of relationship going with the owners of our local Agway. The owners are real farmers, the kind that live on hundreds of acres and have scores of free roaming and ranging everything as well as the crops and equipment to go with it. Amy is the more social and outgoing one of the two. She is a friendly, plump, country gal, who's always seemingly happy to share her abundance of knowledge by fielding my ridiculous questions in a way that makes one think they are actually worth answering.

Her husband, however, is far more matter-of-fact and usually replies to my inquisitions in one of three ways: a simple word or two stating what apparently is quite obvious to everyone else; a quizzical look, as if wondering whether I am serious and whether he actually needs to answer followed by something that I am fairly sure is meant for mocking purposes alone; or, if I am really lucky, complete and utter silence, with the slight possibility of a grunt that I have come to believe contains everything I ever needed to know about my question.

And on a really good day, like today, I expertly extract out all three variations of "you're stupid" before going on my merry way.

Me: Good morning!

Farmer: Mornin'. (I think he might already be shaking his head at me but I assume he is happy to see me bright and early so I look past it.)

Me: Guess I should've known you guys would be open so early, you know, being a farm store and all.

Farmer: Yup.

He pulls out the two heating bases and metal waterer I had ordered in preparation for winter and sets them on the counter next to the cat food without me even mentioning them. I'm all, "Yay! He know's me! He knows who I am!" I am simply positive he feels the same sense of enthusiasm at this new point in our working relationship.

He just hides it really, really, really well.

Farmer: This all today?

Me: Oh, no, I need a bag of that……um……layer feed, um, crumble. (I can never remember exactly what he calls it…. never.)

Farmer: OK, one egg crumble. (Dang it, I was close!) That all?

Me: Yup. Thanks. Sooooo (and this is when you know it's about to go downhill) do the chickens ever burn themselves on the heating bases?

Farmer (insert quizzical look here): 

Me (after an uncomfortable silence): Or do they all huddle up next to it in order to keep warm?

Farmer: Well…..I guess if it gets really cold…they might do that. (Thinking it best not to seek clarification on whether he means burn themselves or huddle together, I move on.)

Me: So, do you do anything to prep your chickens for winter? (I have read all sorts of things about adding light that mimics the sun to rubbing petroleum jelly all over the chickens' waddles and combs so that they don't get frostbite but I decide not to mention these exact details…..)

Farmer (looking at me with his head slightly tilted to make sure I am serious; it's like he KNOWS my brain is swarming with nonsense): Nope.

Me: Do you let them out at all during the winter?

Farmer: Nope.

Me: Wow! Don't they go stir crazy in the coop all winter long?!

Farmer (sighing): I don't know, I've never asked them…….(he leans a little forward as if to let me in on some great farm secret) ……because…. they're chickens.


Have a great weekend y'all!

9.22.2014

The New Shed

It was a warm Christmas morning in early September. My dearest neighbor and I were chitchatting when she caught a glimpse of my Christmas present coming up the hill on the back of a flat bed……(so much like Santa and his sleigh it's uncanny, really…..)

I jumped up, grinning from ear to ear, an 8 year old all over again; rushed to get my camera, boots on, and out the door…..I think I might have invited my friend to stick around and watch the delivery but I can't be certain. She was too excited to worry about my lack of manners I'm guessing…..




The new shed, coming down the street….

….then down the hill that is our back yard…..

….and being backed up onto the gravel pad…..

……and dropped off…...

….and pushed around…..

….until it was in just the right spot…..

……for the chickens…..

"How do you like that chicken coop now, dear neighbors?" …Oh wait, that is not very Christian of me. (Kurt says I can't paint it on the side of the mini-barn either…..sheesh….men.)

This gift from my mom got a very similar response…..if I didn't love her (the hen, well, and my mom too!) so much, I might leave her on my neighbor's doorstep with a dozen fresh eggs, you know, as a peace offering…..snicker snicker.

Have a lovely week my friends!


9.20.2014

Why Chickens….and Other Assorted Questions

People ask me all sorts of questions about the chickens so today I thought I would attempt to answer the most frequently asked questions. Feel free to ask more in the comments and I will try to find a moment to answer those as well!

Q.  Why chickens? 

A.  This seems like such a bizarre question. (No judgement of course.) First off, there is the obvious: 

Maybe I am crazy but a dozen fresh eggs every day is reason enough, right?
Second, there is something quite satisfying about learning new things, especially about another living species. Even the kids have picked up on some of the more interesting chicken facts, throwing around things like: "Did you know that Silkies have an extra toe?" and, "Did you know you can determine the color of the eggs by what color the chicken's ears are?! Our Silkies would have blue iridescent eggs…. you know, if they weren't roosters!"  (Ok, that might not be totally accurate either but it is fun to imagine! And we do in fact get some whitish eggs from our hens with white ears and some speckled eggs from the more confused hens.)
Note the white spots on the first middle egg and the color difference between the bottom two right eggs.  


Finally, unlike your more typical pets, Chickens create new conversation topics at neighborhood gatherings and can even become the life of the party (ok, maybe that is an exaggeration but really, if I didn't have chickens then this older ex-military guy and I would not have had an entire conversation about launching headless chickens into oncoming boats out of his military grade launchers because the recently beheaded chickens would do so much more damage (than live chickens) because they'd run around with their heads cut off spewing blood everywhere…..it's about levity folks, levity.)

Q. Have you always wanted chickens?

A. Well, no. When I was ten, I wanted a little red Mercedez convertible with a black top. And a two story water slide that went from my bedroom into an indoor swimming pool….never mind the fact that I don't really like swimming. By my teens, I wished for a '64 Mustang (although I can't complain about the red firetruck, er, SUV that I drove) and an insanely expensive violin. In my twenties, I would settle for a decent guy (thank goodness some wishes come true), an antique-looking dresser and a playful pair of overalls. So, no, chickens were never on my radar. Cowboy boots? Sure. A chimpanzee? Well, duh! What kid from the 1980's didn't want a chimp after watching Matthew Broderick in the 1987 movie Project X? No brainer. But chickens are a more recent phenomenon, one that comes from recognizing there is an entire world of animal husbandry out there that's going on without me!!….. Something that allows me to teach my kids hard work and patience and the pay off from both……ok, ok, really I just thought it would be cool to create a hobby farm for no apparent reason other than it would be something new……and maybe offer some more blogging material….oh, and eggs. There's always the eggs! 

Q. What is the best part of raising chickens?

A. This is a tough one. Our 24 chickens bless me with much more joy than I would have ever imagined. (Ok, truth be told, there are about 6 that truly add joy to my life…..and at least one or two who may have a special place at dinner one night if they aren't careful!) But really, they are the funniest creatures! For example, our coop has five nest boxes but almost daily I will find four chickens trying to squeeze in one nest box all at the same time while the other boxes sit completely empty. And when I come out to collect eggs mid-morning, there are usually 6-8 eggs in ONE NEST BOX! It's like they have taken lessons from my kids who continually occupy the same bathroom I happen to be in regardless of the fact that we have like half a dozen other bathrooms totally empty! And when I have a few hens roaming about with me and I start picking grass for those stuck in the coop, the outside hens (who have acres upon acres from which to feed) come running over to eat what I am picking…..because, again, like my kids, they want what the others are getting even if it is EXACTLY THE SAME as what they have in front of them.

But my favorite part about the chickens is our morning hunts. I take out my favorite six and we walk around the yard and a few of the smarter ones follow close behind my dragging boot. As soon as I find something, I squat down and give them my signal and they come running to catch whatever grasshopper or cricket is sitting there. But they are pretty awesome hunters even when I am not helping. One day, I caught a little cricket and took it over to give to my favorite hen, Superman, but when I got there and started to open my hand, Superman looked up at me with the biggest grasshopper I have ever seen dangling out of her mouth as if to say, "Seriously? That's the best you can do?" She's kind of a show off.

Anyway, that's it for now. I apologize for being so darn behind on the blogging. I know you have experienced too many sleepless nights wondering what happened to us…..we didn't fall off the planet or anything…..I just happened to take a new coaching position this fall because apparently free time is overrated, and I am insane, and so things have been a tad busier than usual. I will make an effort to write a little more frequently.

Next up: The New Shed (a.k.a. "How do you like that chicken coop now, neighbors?!")





8.14.2014

Page updates

In case you are lacking in reading material and have never browsed my other pages, I have updated my "About My (non-living) Chickens" page. Feel free to check out some of the cool chicken gifts I have received over the years. I apologize in advance if I have missed some. I will update this periodically.

Also, I will try to get my "About My Flock" page up and running soon (and by soon I mean hopefully before the turn of the decade!)

Happy Reading!!!

Poultry in Politics

Chickens in the national news: Chickens may determine the outcome of the Iowa Senatorial race. I don't espouse to know much about politics and quite honestly, I try to stay out of it as much as humanly possible, but it seems like pretty common sense that if you are running for any office in a farm state like Iowa, it is probably a really bad idea to complain about people's chickens. See here for the whole article. But the thing that really gets me about this article is the picture of the "fence" around the chickens…..I mean, those poor little hens, totally unprotected from any Hawk, Fox, Coyote, Raccoon or other predator that might come crawling out of the woodwork. Sheesh! Mr. Braley, if he knew what was best for him, should be taking the side of concerned neighbor over the welfare of those beautiful fowl! And for the record, Mr. Braley, (and neighbors living next door to us as well), chickens make GREAT pets!

This article really hit home actually as we have had similar issues with our next door neighbors. Upon putting the coop out, they were very concerned over the chickens next door. (And by concerned I mean totally and completely annoyed.) Before we even had the flock outside they told us they were very unhappy about our coop and the idea of chickens running around the yard. I appreciated their honesty, and assured them that our chickens would not be on their property (and they have not….which we know because we had the property lines staked and left the lovely wooden stakes with the obnoxious neon orange flags in the ground so that there is no question…..you're welcome, neighbors!) We promised that the chickens would not be out unattended until we built our run and fenced them in (seriously, they should be thanking us for the free entertainment each time we attempt to herd the hens) but then they got upset over the idea of a fence and made sure to tell us that if the coop were a children's playhouse, they would have no problem with it but the fact that there would be hens in there was very displeasing. I helpfully suggested that they just pretend it was a children's playhouse…..that went over smashingly. 

We then had other neighbors tell us how they had heard from non-neighborhood people about our chickens….funny how things go in a small town.  But we had done our homework and knew that we were within our rights in the township and knew that now that we have chickens we are considered agricultural so actually are given even MORE leeway on some of the usual laws, like fences and buildings and such. But, since our neighbors have not been too supportive (mowing way over the line, pulling out the stakes and putting them back incorrectly or not at all and then giving us a hard time about the stakes being there….which of course, they wouldn't still be there had they not started messing with them in the first place) we opted to add a lovely barn-like shed to the coop area in order to better contain our chicken and farm supplies (of which they would have been informed had they not stopped talking to us or even waving back to us….). At any rate, we are still trying to be considerate of what it all looks like and have ordered something that matches our coop: a cute little red barn with white trim, the epitome of "city-slicker" hobby farms (as one neighbor called us.) But I will admit, my patience has been tried (which says a lot coming from a parent of five) and we are now keeping the roosters; after all, without them we couldn't breed the silkies…..oh, which means we had to get more silkies since all three of ours were roos….oh, and now we need another coop….. 

I assure you this could have been avoided…..well, maybe. But it does show that you really oughtn't mess with the poultry-people next door. You might just lose an election….or at least a view from your kitchen window. 


You can see the gravel in the back where the new shed will go two weeks from now. The smaller area of gravel is where we will move the chicken coop. It will all be enclosed for the chickens to roam freely. Happy hens means happy eggs….or something like that.

Liam hanging out with Larry, Moe and Curly
(or Midnight, Raven and Fuzzy if you are Lily……or Superman One, Two and Three if you are Solomon….it's no wonder why they multiple personalities!)

The three Stooges/Supermans taking out an apple they found

Olaf, one of our new White Silkie Peeps

Multigrain

The rest of the newest additions


Have a super, hilarious weekend everyone! 

7.10.2014

When it rains…..

It has been almost three months since the marathon and I have written what, once?!?! So much has happened, and admittedly I am behind in every area of my life. I am quite certain that when you break down Chaos Theory into tiny little pieces, at the very core you will find our family. A lot of Scientists are wasting their time…..they should just come visit Mars!

That said, here is the last couple of months, the good, the bad and the ugly, in a nutshell:

1. We considered getting some Guinea Fowl but acquired 4 Silkies instead (much to Kurt's chagrin…..) If you don't know what a Silkie is, click here.

2. Stripsies (a seven week old kitten) entered our lives…..(again, sorry Kurt! But how could you resist that tiny ball of fluffy love?!?!)
This is before he met the Solomonster…..now I am pretty sure he sleeps with one eye open.


3. Stripsies fell off the second story loft to the first floor. (He landed on his feet…..one life down, eight to go!)

4. We discovered that one of our Silkies, who was still living upstairs in the guest bathroom, was clearly a Rooster. Now what?!
Lily is determined that the Roo stays because: "But Mom! He's part of the herd!" Close enough.


5. Leroy got mauled by a raccoon. (We think.) Emergency surgery, a ridiculous amount of stitches, two drain tubes and $500 later, (and many days of finger crossings since he refused his medications), he unfortunately recovered.


6. Kurt and the boys were in a head-on collision with an intoxicated driver. My 5000 pound SUV was totaled but they all walked away with minimal bruises. (Oh and some traumatic stress…..and perhaps a wee bit of whiplash.) We love our Toyota! Ten years of loyal service and one, huge life-saving moment. Totally worth every cent we spent on that truck!


7. Our basement got flooded by an unruly toilet upstairs…..but on the bright side, we learned we own a lot of towels.

8. We tried to move the Silkies into the coop with the chickens and discovered that chickens can be fairly vicious. (The Silkies then took up residence with the bunny in his outdoor mansion……he's not too thrilled but we are pretty sure he will get over it.)

Don't let their apparent peaceful obliviousness fool you! They are monsters I tell you!  (Not really…. unless you are a Silkie!)
9. Our one working washing machine broke which made us bite the bullet and buy a new set. But we were able to donate a washer and the matching (and still working) dryer to a friend who acted like Christmas came early because as luck would have it, her dryer broke the very same day.

10. The tiniest of the Silkies got slaughtered by a raccoon who apparently tried to pull it (unsuccessfully) through the cage wires…..don't worry, I didn't take any pictures…..but the other Silkies and the Bunny have not been the same since!

11. After Fluffy's demise, we stuck the Silkies in with the other chickens. So far, they are all still okay (although Fuzzy, the last remaining, tiny, gray chicken is more or less attached to his/her black body guards…..)



12. Solomon claimed one of the Silkies as his own, and named him Superman.


13. Oreo and Stripsies shared a Vet appointment, which is really not news but I took a picture and thought I would share.



14. I learned that you really oughtn't put a 10 pound bag of bird seed in the passenger seat of your BRAND NEW SUV and then drive like you always do…….lesson learned.




We are off to Sun-struck-crazyville, I mean, Florida next week so I will update as I can.

Have a great day/week/month.

6.18.2014

You Might be a Redneck If…..

Today I have to add my own list to Jeff Foxworthy's redneck humor because apparently living in the country does that to a person……so, here is my personal list of "You might be a redneck if…."

You might be a redneck if…..
-You run out of chicken wire while coon-proofing your rabbit hutch so you grab your roll of camouflage duct tape to finish the job.

(When I texted my verifiably normal friend the sentence from above, she replied, "Um, or if you use the word coon in a sentence" and I had to scratch my head because, really? It's not the fact that I have camo-duct tape?)

You might be a redneck if…..
-Your cat gets mauled by a raccoon a few days before your Silkie gets slaughtered by one.
or
-You not only know what a Silkie is, but you have some as pets!

You might be a redneck if…..
-Your 9 year old begs to get rabies shots

(Apparently some kids just don't understand that raccoon maulings happen…..you just have to learn to live with 'em…..one of life's many great lessons….)

You might be a redneck if…..
-You try to explain to your kids that it isn't normal that your friend has a "death tree" (where she hangs various dead animals in it to rot cleanly so that she can get the skeletons) but that it's okay because you learn different kinds of lessons at her house than you would elsewhere…..like don't die there because you might get hung in a tree!

You might be a redneck if….
-Your son brings up the fact that your friend launches her own mortars from her backyard and you explain that it isn't very safe because one time she accidentally shot one into her neighbors house and set it afire and your son is like, 'oh, that's nothing compared to the time she accidentally blew up an ATV during a bonfire' and you correct him because it wasn't an ATV she blew up but her boyfriend's monster truck…..

You might be a redneck if….
-You feel safe dropping your kids off at aforementioned friend's house so that she can watch them.

Have a great day, y'all!


5.31.2014

Boston 2014: The Race (Finally)

Some people like to give you a mile by mile recap of their marathons. In fact, I am guessing you can find thousands of recaps of Boston online if you look hard enough. But I will spare you the details. Outside of it being shoulder to shoulder for the first 12 miles or so (because of the ridiculous, er, incredible amount of runners) and the lack of bombs, it was pretty much just like last year. Same start, same stop. Same hills. Same water stops. Same landmarks. Same distance. You get the point.

But I….I was not the same as last year. Interestingly enough, there is comfort in running a race you have run before. I knew the lay of the land, so to speak. I knew what to expect (unless you factor in that part where, because I was searching for Kurt,  I completely forgot about the hills coming up and thought I had hit a wall around mile 16, only to realize I had just finished the first hill….phew! For a moment there I was cursing at myself for having used a different training plan because clearly I wasn't ready to run more than 16 miles!!!!) And most importantly, I knew that when somebody offered me to take over wearing their bunny ears because the ears were making their head too hot, that I should probably say no even though I really wanted them, because why take the risk of bunny ears slowing you down?!

At any rate, I went all out this year. I didn't hold back. I just assumed I would make it to the finish, one way or another. And I did. Crossing the finish line in 3:18:59, exactly six minutes faster than last year, I felt like I could finally be done with this whole running thing. I had pushed myself to run a marathon in under 3 hours and 20 minutes (because that was the goal a friend of mine had and if it was good enough for her, why shouldn't it be good enough for me??) and with this success, I was done. And my body agreed. So much so that after the race, four different medics approached me to ask if I was okay. One of them stopped me and started asking me questions: "What's your name, runner?" (Oh, oh, I know this one! "Karen"!) "And where are you from, Karen?" (Oooooh……hmmmm…...well, I just moved to Mars……shoot, no, I can't tell him that because then he will think I clearly have a problem. Well, maybe he means where am I from originally, but what if he knows where MojoRunning is because that is clearly displayed on my hat??? Shoot…. oh, I got it….."Pennsylvania.") Apparently I passed the test because he let me out to wander the streets on my own.

After what seemed like an eternity, I finally ended up at the free massage place near the family meeting area. As I was leaning against a wall, almost in tears from the cramps in my legs and the emotion of the race (or perhaps that sudden drop of adrenaline!) I began to talk to other runners. One man told me about his pre-race anxiety, how he was so convinced there was something wrong with him last year that he went to the ER the night before the race. This year, he made an appointment with his doctor and changed his asthma meds a week before, which he said made a huge difference. I made a mental note of this and then asked him what symptoms led him to the ER.

"A general feeling like I was going to die…..some chest pains, shortness of breath, you know, basic heart attack symptoms….."

Halleluja and Amen! Apparently this is a thing…..not just my "thing" but something that other runners go through.  Phew!

Boston this year was a race to end all races. If I do it again, (which I won't), it will be at a slow and leisurely pace. It will be without the stress of someone who thinks they are dying and it will definitely include a post-race massage because, PRAISE THE LORD, there is nothing better than a cup of hot broth and a twenty minute rub down after running your tail off for 26.2 miles.

Oh, and it will include some bunny ears.

And perhaps some Xanax.






5.21.2014

Easter Message from the Toll Booth

I have to interrupt my Boston Marathon posts because I forgot perhaps one of the most simple and significant parts of the story (it's like when you forget to tell a part of a joke that directly impacts the punch line….well, you know, if the joke isn't really funny to begin with and the missing part was only really important to the teller…..)

We were driving into Boston on Easter Sunday. We were skipping church. For heaven's sake, we were SKIPPING BREAKFAST! And we came upon a toll booth. I am not sure what happened but as we got up to the booth Kurt had to hit the brakes suddenly and he yelled out, "Jesus!"

The man at the booth, foreign born, with a thick, beautifully rich, far away accent, perhaps African, replied: "Thank you for calling on the Holy One when you most needed to!"

Kurt apologized profusely for his misuse of God's name, especially on Easter Sunday! The man adamantly replied, "Oh no, it is never a misuse to call on the Holiest of names in your time of need!! Always call on the one who can help you!"

An unexpected but powerful Easter Message indeed.





5.17.2014

Boston Marathon 2014: Race Day Morning

This post is not going to go on at length about how incredible the Boston Marathon is, how it is like no other marathon or how it is essentially the Holy Grail of races. Maybe that is true. Maybe it isn't. What I know is this: Every marathon is unique and special in its own way. They are interesting snapshots into the culture of the city and the people who live there. And they are filled with excitement because the energy and enthusiasm surrounding the running community exists whether it is Boston, London, Dublin or Nowhere Land USA. After spending months beating yourself up to endure 26.2 miles, how could you not be glittering with nervous energy? Now multiply that by 32,000 and THAT is Boston. At least this year.

Race day. You awake early knowing you need to put in some calories and then are too nervous to eat very much and there's no chance you can go back to sleep. It's fantastic. But by this point, most runners are usually pretty pumped. It is race day morning when I am able to just throw myself into the experience and let the race play itself out, however it may go. 

We got ready and then headed down to the lobby to wait for our new friend we didn't know yet, Alli. She arrived promptly and after a quick introduction, we were off. Alli was my saving grace. We were best friends for the day. She was excited and nervous and totally at ease with the fact that we not only stopped for coffee but then proceeded to get lost AND HIT A ROBIN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD! But good ol' Alli just trusted the day and kept a smile on her face through it all. I love Alli.

While waiting at South Street to grab a bus, Alli proceeded to tell me all about her qualifier: how she had only signed up for the Marine Corp half marathon and then decided last minute to run the full (and by last minute, I mean she changed her race the night before!) Her longest run during that training had only been about 12 miles. She ended up running a Boston Qualifying time of about 3 hours and 28 minutes. I hate Alli. But when I pressed to know how she trained this time, thinking maybe she had done a little research and realized she might need to actually work on it given how hard her recovery was in D.C., it turns out she couldn't even recall her longest run and had no idea how much mileage she had put in each week. Ahh, the carefree nature of youth.

I proceeded to impart every bit of knowledge I had of Boston's course, what to expect, when to expect it, how many Gu's she would need, etc. etc. She soaked it up and as we stood in the ridiculously long line to use the restrooms, she and another younger woman started stuffing their Gu's in their sports bras and pants because neither of them had a running pack. I marveled at their easy-going (and totally disorganized!) styles. It was as if they had not put one bit of thought into the actual race and hardly any into their training. By this point, there were four of us in our posse, and as the oldest by at least 8 years, I became mother hen, forced them to put on sun block, and wished them well. It was time to get to our corrals.

The walk to the starting ling is about 0.7 miles. I spoke to other women about skin cancer, and whether or not to drink beer on the course. I had thought maybe I would just take it easy and accept whatever beverages were offered but when that first beer stand popped up, half a mile BEFORE THE START, I couldn't risk throwing away all that time and effort, so I kept walking and made it to my starting corral just in time for the gun. And four minutes or so later, I was turning my watch on as I crossed the starting line, relaxed and almost confident in my training, but fully joyful for having been of service to others for that last few hours. The day was a success no matter what happened from there.

5.16.2014

Boston Marathon 2014: The Days Before

Kurt and I arrived in Boston late Saturday evening, checked into the hotel in Westborough where we stayed last year and then left to have dinner at a nearby Irish Pub. We opted for a variety of food and washed it down with their craft beer. It was perfect. Somehow, having at least arrived, I felt a wave of comfort. I knew this place. I knew the hotel. I knew the area. The familiarity was calming.

The next day, I awoke early with great intentions. It was Easter Sunday. A day for renewal. I had it in my head that we would get up, have a nice breakfast with a childhood friend and his wife, drive to one of my Blog Reader's churches where I would finally get to meet her and wish her luck on this year's race (she didn't get to finish it last year) and then head into the city for the running expo/packet-pickup.

As my kids would say: Epic fail.

In actuality, we spent a leisurely morning putzing around, didn't really eat breakfast (unless you count the part of a donut that I had bought from our favorite donut guy in Mars), and then headed into the city. I have very poor time-managment and planning skills. Even had someone given me the exact date and time of the resurrection and told me exactly where to be to witness it, I'd have missed it because I would probably want to stomp on more grapes to make extra wine for the after-party and then realize I needed to clean out the wine skins and while doing that see that the hut needed sweeping out and that the Bread still needed to be baked and then notice I was out of flour and so would have to go to the market and, where did I put my sandals again???…..you get my drift.

The Expo was huge and crowded. After picking up my bib number, we ran into a couple from Pittsburgh with their wheelchair bound daughter. Kurt was excited to see a family in both Pittsburgh and Stanford clothing so he stopped to chat. The husband had just completed a month long foot race in Alaska (think Iditarod without dogs.) He was inspirational. In the course of the conversation, Kurt lovingly tried to include their daughter by asking if she was also a runner. She graciously answered that no, she doesn't run. (Um, duh?!)  I refrained from kicking him as he fumbled to recover. But it kept me laughing, over and over again, the remainder of the day so I was grateful.

We entered the Expo, bought an overabundance of race paraphernalia, harassed the HokaOneOne sales guy (because this year they changed the shoes I run in and quite honestly, they stink and even though it wasn't his fault, I figured he could handle it and then he somehow sold me a different pair of shoes….good sales guy!), and then spent some time talking to a young man in the army who runs with a Christian organization. He gave me an orange bracelet that says Boston 2014 WhyDoYouRace.com. As we left the expo to find something to eat (I hear that helps when you are supposed to run a marathon the next day….) I had to admit, the bracelet asked a good question: Why do I race?

After eating our fill, it was back to the hotel for some rest and relaxation where we both pulled out our books. As I was reading I ran across a quote that struck me:

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” --Tagore

And it hit me that I had been so focused on my own anxiety and self that I had failed to see the joys in front of me: the delight and excitement of the runners,  the buzz in the city and the unusual peace and quiet Kurt and I had been enjoying. I vowed that after this race, I would make it a point to start helping others more, remembering service was joy. So when we happened to overhear a worried mother looking for a ride to Athlete's Village for her 23 year old daughter, it was a no brainer for us to offer to take her the next morning. It was as if we were in the right place at the right time (and totally eavesdropping) for a greater purpose, one that I truly hope sticks.


5.07.2014

Boston Marathon 2014: Getting There

"I am never doing this again." -- Me, like a 100 times after last year's Boston Marathon

(My physical therapist in MN has a recording of me saying it, promising it actually. He would have bet a whole lot of money that I was completely full of it ….I hate it when they're right.)

But really, I wasn't going to go back. Actually, I think my thought process after last year was that "if" I ever ran another marathon it would be in some unheard of place where only a few people actually even show up to run. No huge crowds. No international scene. No threat of attacks (well, unless you include the wild animals out there and then all bets are off!) But I wasn't even certain after last year that I ever wanted to do another 26.2 miles. (Stop laughing. It is true. Kind of.)

And then a week went by and another and pretty soon, I forgot about the intense months of preparation, the weight gain, the labor pains and the sleepless nights and I was chomping at the bit to have another, er, to race again. So I did a few 10 milers and then registration for Boston came up and guess who got the email? And guess who said, "Oh heck…..I have to go back. I just HAVE to. Especially since we are moving closer and who doesn't want to train for a marathon right after moving!" I'm like the Michelle Dugger of marathoning….only, I don't have to wake up in the middle of the night for like 30 years straight or potty train an army.

This year was going to be different though. I'd be running to support runners everywhere. I'd be running to show solidarity with the city of Boston and with the droves of spectators rallying the city on. I'd be running for freedom, for hope, for, I don't know, something bigger than little old me.

And I would do it with a smile and without fear and worry and maybe even without my running watch!  (Which is when you know I am full of it…..)

And I even had a plan to get past the anxiety stage during taper madness: just don't taper so much! Seriously, I was going to run a 61 mile week, followed by a 50 mile week followed by a one week taper of 25- 30 miles and somehow, by not spending 3 weeks at low mileage, I was going to avoid all craziness. (Really now, you could at least TRY to contain the chuckles.)

Insert a capital F here. The plan was going great until about two weeks pre-race when, even though I had anticipated issues and started on Prilosec and taken out most of the acid-producing foods and alcohol and coffee and anything I could think of that would make me hurt inside, it started anyway. First, the indigestion. Next up: Chest pains, topped off by uncontrollable asthma symptoms. Finally, the anxiety peaked, as if my body didn't give a rats petuny that I had a plan (gosh darn it), and I knew, without the tiniest bit of doubt, that I was doomed! I would probably never see my kids again. Or my chickens! I was going to be done for by mile 13 and probably not even make it to the medic tent before someone declared I was a lost cause and my soul had left the building…..I have a problem y'all.

As I am sure I have mentioned before, I come by this crazy propensity toward anxiety very honestly. I am fairly certain it runs down both blood lines which is kind of ironic if you think about it. Both sides of the family are God-loving Christians, both grandfathers were ministers for crying out loud and there is this extreme belief in the goodness of our Creator and in God's power to save under any and all circumstances…..We could preach a thousand sermons on God's grace alone….after all, what else does one really need? Yet when the idea of death crops up, well, let's just say we have an extreme aversion to the idea. I mean, we love God and all, but really, none of us is really interested in going home just yet. We want to delight in the goodness of creation just a little longer, act like the prodigal sons and daughters we are and plunder our inheritance and blessings as long as we can; and quite honestly, even when we are rolling in the pig slop, wishing we could eat as well as the pigs, we are STILL not ready to meet our Maker. Ok, I can't speak for the whole family but I'll take the slop, thanks.

I suppose it is the nature of anxiety though to flood your brain with irrational thoughts. And so as we began the drive to Boston, I got quiet and reflective and contemplated how I could convince God not to take me from this earth just yet (I mean, maybe a tiny car accident that left us only slightly shaken up with only minor injuries could get me out of racing to my doom! Yes, I know I have issues…and yes I know they have medication for it but seriously, who wants to risk possibly ruining their time goals with meds?!?!)

A few hours into the drive, I found myself in a restroom at some back country gas station, tears filling my eyes as I begged to have this burden taken from me. As if I were JESUS ABOUT TO BE CRUCIFIED! Only, I didn't give that whole "but only if it's Your will" crap because really, THAT TOTALLY DEFEATS THE PRAYER! Silly Jesus. He shouldn't have given God an out. Just saying.

So, after my complete and total (but very private because I don't want everyone to know what a wreck I am before the race) breakdown, and after asking Kurt if he thought I should see a doctor about my shortness of breath BEFORE the marathon and being affirmed that we could if I needed to, AND after proclaiming (again) that I thought it was time to really consider switching sports because this panic stuff clearly isn't worth it, I began to feel a little less agitated. I started to practice some deep breathing and wouldn't you know, the slightest inkling of calm began to take hold….."calm" being a very relative term of course but, it was a start and it got me there….