Luxury, Part 2

Part Two of How a Mercedez Provided the Crappiest Morning on Record (at least, recently….)

So, if you recall, I had just dropped the older kids off at school and was on my way home, feeling like I totally deserved a star for the day: three kids, two schools, everyone on time, and fed, no forgotten lunch boxes, and most incredibly, everyone feeling happy. Miracles do happen y'all. I'm pretty sure this would qualify me for sainthood, if I were Catholic….and at all saintly.

And as I was imagining the proverbial sticker being placed on my lapel, ok, ok, on my running shirt, I drove into the garage (well, not INTO the garage like I did a few days back in the truck….but that's a different story) and was getting out when Liam opened the door.

"Mom, Mom, Mom! Solomon went poop in his diaper!" Liam exclaimed, way too excitedly under the circumstances.

"Ok, no problem, Liam. I will get him changed as soon as I….."

Solomon appeared in the door. Only, he was fully naked with poop smeared up and down his body. It was as if he had tried to cover up his accident BY ROLL.ING. IN. IT.

"Uh oh," I said, as calmly as possible. "SOLOMON! Don't touch anything!" I said, not as calmly. Then with gritted teeth: "You are supposed to go poop in the toilet!"

His face took on a very serious expression as he said, "But, I did that already. Yesterday."

I walked into the house, holding Solly at arms length, and took him into my first floor bathroom to hose him down. After he was settled in the running tub, I began my search and rescue mission. Only, without the rescue part. After retracing his VERY OBVIOUS steps in the crime scene, it became clear that he had taken his diaper off in his upstairs bedroom; tried, to no avail, to clean himself up with toilet paper in his bathroom (where I later would find all sorts of dirty paper stuck all over); carefully walked to the other side of the house and down to the bottom of the carpeted staircase where he apparently got so exhausted from the weight of the poop he had managed to carry on his backside that he plopped himself down on the very bottom step, where I would find the majority of the debris later.

At this point, being a very helpful engine, he went to clean it up himself, grabbing several fresh diapers in order to attempt to wipe himself and the carpet down. (Maybe Mom won't notice…..) Once he had finished cleaning up, he thought of something across the way and ran to the other side of the main floor, leaving a last bit or two of dangling excrement on the hardwood before returning to the entryway to wait for me. And wipe himself on the tile. While singing a happy little tune.

It takes me an hour to sweep my main floor on a good day….assuming I am working at the speed of light. It took me all morning and much of the afternoon to sweep, sanitize, mop, scrub and mop again. One floor. All because a luxury car went kerchoo…...

Somewhere during this adventure, Kurt came up for more coffee. I will admit, I was very proud of my boys for not bothering their dad while he worked downstairs. At least some lessons stick. No fire. No blood. No bother. (One less floor to clean up! Woo hoo!)

It took two days for the Mercedez dealership to detail my car (apparently it was worse than the Battle of the Bulge-ing diaper I had fought). Imagining the hours it took those grown men to scrub off the three dozen marine animal stickers (that have been glued to the windows for over eight years!) makes me giggle every time. Of course, the kids are super bummed because, as Lily pointed out, "How will we know which car is ours now?"…..as if we regularly park in a lot full of 10-year old silver SUVs that look just like ours……or perhaps she only sees the windows of vehicles? Who knows. But, it gave me two days to feel that ultra luxurious discomfort as they finished scraping the ten years of fast food and gunk off the inside of my car and then brought it back to trade for Kurt's car. They left us with the loaner for the weekend (only after asking several times if we would be okay with the loaner for a few extra days….gee, let me see….10 year old car…..brand new one….hmmmm). But quite honestly, I was extremely relieved to have my truck back….I don't know that I could face another day without it.

I jokingly apologized to our High End Car Dealer/neighbor when I happened to run into him (and by run into him I am referring to the fact that the five kids and I had completely taken over his kitchen and home when he happened to walk in early from work on Friday).

"Hey, I apologize in advance if any of your detailers quit after working on my truck," I said over the surrounding chaos.

"Oh, no one has quit yet," he replied, "but that might explain OSHA having been called in."

(I am pretty sure he was joking…..)

"Well, it isn't my fault if they forgot to wear their Hazmat suits to work today. I did warn them!" I replied.

After we left, he asked his wife if it was always like that when we're around. (I am assuming he meant was it always as fun and lively and joyful…..) She assured him it was. Because she is that kind of friend. Honest and loving….but willing to lie in order to keep feeding the strays that wander in. Oh, how bored she must have been before we moved here. Never fear dear new friend, the circus that has arrived is not leaving town anytime soon. And we even offer free delivery…..because we are just like Mercedez.


Learning to Live With Luxury

This post could have also been titled:

How this car
Provided the Shittiest Morning Ever

(pardon the vulgarity, play on words to follow…..)

As you can probably guess, and those who know me know this well, I am not exactly the "Mercedez" kind of gal. I've always silently judged (perhaps unfairly) those who drive German Luxury vehicles: snotty, ostentatious, arrogant perhaps, are things that sometimes come to mind. I am not proud of this and certainly it is not true in all cases, maybe not even the majority, but I have known many people who do fit that description and so, I hold onto judgement. It is totally unfair and shortsighted of me to think this way and my new, incredible neighbors, are teaching me a valuable lesson about it, but up until recently, this is how I generalized people who spent excessive amount of money on luxury. 

But Karen, you own a Lexus, you might argue. Yes, we do have a 10, no wait, 12 year old Lexus. (Shoot, has it been THAT long?!?) When we were going to replace my beloved Fire Engine (i.e. red, broken down Ford Explorer) back in the first year of marriage, Kurt insisted that in his line of work, and while he was looking for a job in the financial industry right out of business school in one of the richest areas of the country, that he had to act the part.  And I took all sorts of grief about it as I drove that darn luxury car to the elementary school I worked at each day. Something along the lines of "being paid too much" I believe…..which is totally true if $28k is too much. We didn't have a TV, but gosh darn it, we drove a Lexus (the cheapest one they made….basically a glorified Camry….) 

At any rate, my new best neighbor friend is married to a Mercedez dealer. He owns a bunch of dealerships: Mercedez, Vovlo, BMW, Jaguar…..actually, everything but Lexus come to think of it. And of course, she has a new Mercedez Mini-Van (is that what you call it?) every 6 months. And so when I needed to get my 9 year old Toyota Sequoia inspected in order to comply with state regulations (so that the poor police officer who pulled me over doesn't have to spend half an hour listening to me chat away ever again about the interesting rules and regulations here in PA and the property taxes and inspection differences between counties….and parenthood…..actually, I don't think he would want to pull me over ever again come to think of it….) my sweet friend volunteered to have her husband take it in to his dealership. (How many times they explained to me that they "don't usually service Toyotas….we are a Mercedez dealership after all but the Big E was willing to make an exception here" I don't know, but it was definitely more than once!) So, one day this week, the guy from the dealership calls to let me know they would be bringing me a loaner vehicle (see above picture) and would be picking up my truck to service and inspect and then detail before they brought it back. (I'll admit, my heart began to soften a little for everyone I have ever known who drove or drives a Mercedez.) The extremely friendly man told me he was afraid he didn't have anything with three rows of seats to fit all of my kids and I promised it would be fine, we would make do. 

So this morning, make do I did. I left the two little ones in the attic, in front of the TV, in order to get the others to school. I mean, what could happen in twenty short minutes, right? Kurt was home so technically it was legal but particularly smart, I cannot claim. 

On the way to school, I understood for the first time when people talk about their car "hugging" the road. Having only 317 miles, this brand new vehicle doesn't ride on the road, it glides, it hovers, it is like an angel floating tirelessly over each and every nook and cranny and enormous pothole, things that would make any other car jump and jiggle and possibly die. Now, I will admit, I cannot tell if it drives this way because I am being extra cautious to keep it structurally safe and sound in order to not have to buy it because we broke it in less than 24 hours, or if it really is a hover-craft in disguise, but it certainly takes these back country roads as if they were made yesterday and were of the same surface as a highly polished basketball court. 

It took my mind off the road and gave me the chance to listen to the three kids who were eagerly talking about the state testing they were headed into at school. This, in turn, made me remember that listening to Classical Music before tests can help you concentrate better so I flipped on the radio. Out popped the COPD of classical music, that is, the Chorus of Over-dramatic Peril and Doom, Orff's Carmina Burana. The kids got quiet, absorbing the music I am certain, and I told them that it felt as if they were marching off to war. 

"Oh, Franz, don't leave me!" I shouted in my most ridiculously, dramatic, theater voice. (Yes, apparently I have one of those. I hear it goes along with high intelligence….or wait, maybe it was insanity….) 

"But dear wife, I must go and defend our home and our honor!" I replied, in a different voice, obviously Franz. 

The kids started laughing hysterically and then Madeline let out an incredibly sharp scream. (She was clearly not in the right part of the scene but did a fantastic job of incorporating all the proper elements of drama!) Apparently Lily had unbuckled her in order to buckle herself because Madeline had used the wrong latch and Madeline was terrified she might die in an accident. Or something like that.

"Madeline, there are no cars on this road," I told her calmly. "We are not going to get in an accident."

"She was afraid you might hit a tree," Aidan said, in good humor. Mostly.

"Oh yes, the tree that I hit in order to avoid the chicken in the road……Ack! A chicken in the road, I must veer off and hit the tree so that I don't kill the chicken," I exalted, now back in my Franz voice.

"And then the three of us kids die," Aidan laughed, sardonically. 

"But officer," I continued, "I SAVED THE CHICKEN!" 

"You are basically a hero!" Aidan said.

The kids were all in hysterics at this point. Orff finished and we reached the school, disasters averted all around. Until I got home that is…..

To be continued…...


Bring on the Biddies!

And by biddy, I am referring to our newest female family members (not the oldest ones….)

So, while it may seem like I should never be allowed to bring another animal home again given the feelings of impending doom that frequently occur upon their arrival (unless that animal is a human animal because some how or another that seems to have no such affect on me….Kurt on the other hand…..) we, or perhaps I, decided recently that it was time to go ahead and expand our family. I don't know whether it is because spring has finally sprung (or attempted to) or because I have been counting down the days since we arrived on our imaginary farm, but when I saw the box the treadmill was in, I knew I had found the perfect "brooder" for our peeps and went about getting everything ready. Heat lamp, check. Thermometer, check. Box with packing paper covered flooring, check. Waterer, feeder, starter feed, pine shavings, check, check, check, check. So, when the ad online said that the chicks had hatched and were ready for the taking, I immediately picked up the phone and called the farm which was only about 45 minutes northeast of us. After all, the brooder had been up and running for a week (because I needed to be assured I could keep the correct temps without baking our babies and burning the house down, if you recall the Bearded Dragon episode before Christmas….)

So, on Sunday, I packed up the kids and one of our neighbor kids (because what the heck, there's always room for more right?) and our only smallish box (which ironically enough was the packaging for "chicken tenders: quality frozen fully cooked chicken") and off we went.  Freehling Farms is a rather large dairy farm where the husband and wife (about my age) also dabble in chickens (and by dabble I mean they keep about 50-100 chicken for themselves while hatching and selling off the rest….) The conversations on the road went something like this:

Neighbor Kid (as we were winding our way through miles of back roads): Wow, I've lived here all my life and never been around here.

Madeline, (with what I am sure was a hint of pride and not really mature tact): Yeah, my mom likes to take us on lots of adventures.

A few miles later, as we hit a highway and the country music was blaring and everyone in the car was belting out "I drive your truck…..I roll every window down and I burn up, every back road in this town….." the neighbor kid started again:

"Why do you think every country song is about love and beer?" (Well, duh, what else is worth crooning about? I thought.) "I mean, my favorite song is Country Fried," she said.  I wanted to say, "Well, what do you think you are going to wash that Country Fried food down with? Milk?" But then, she probably isn't going to reach for a beer at 10.

Anyway, we arrived at the farm and hurried out of the truck to meet Roger, a friendly guy about my age who has lived on the farm all his life. His much younger brother was with him, and as luck would have it, he dabbles in rabbit breeding (what good fortune!!!) and they showed us to the tiny peeps, fresh from the egg and ready to roll. Roger chose 6 for us to take home, put them in a much smaller box than our big Frozen Chicken Tenders box (I think he wanted to make the chicks feel like they were not being sent off to their doom, which, of course, might actually be the case but at least his box wasn't advertising it!) and as we were leaving and I was asking a million questions he gave me the best piece of advice:

"Don't over think it. They are only chickens."

Recognizing he was ready for us to leave, I told him thanks and that I'd come back to replace them next week if things go south. He smiled a knowing smile and said he thought we would be just fine. (I think he may have said a little prayer later to make sure of it.)

And after texting him that evening because none of our chicks were drinking, and they all kept just falling asleep all over the place and I was sure maybe we were going to kill them, he reassured me that they were fine and that gave me enough confidence to pick up another 6 the following day from our local Agway store. You know, because people always say things are cheaper by the dozen. Actually, they cost me more and so I can't claim they are cheaper but they are definitely messier by the dozen!

So, welcome Butterscotch (Madeline's chick), Fluttercup (Lily's), Olli Matta and Syndey Crosby (Liam's chicks because he couldn't decide which Penguin to name his after), and Judas (a.k.a Judy……we thought she was going to die so we figured if we were going to lose one of the twelve, it should be Judas. But then she made a remarkable recovery….um, she woke up from her nap….and so we thought she deserved to be called Judy instead) and the other 7 unnamed babes (Aidan isn't sure whether to name his Geddy Lee or something else…..we'll see what he comes up with and then I will get to name the rest…..probably after my friends all across the country because how better to honor those you love but to name your hens after them…..there could be my three D's: Miss Deb, Dawn, Danielle and who knows, maybe you dear reader will make the team as well. (Bribes are totally acceptable under the circumstances.)

Oh, what was that? You want pictures? I thought you would never ask! Enjoy!

The set-up (with Leroy taking great interest)

Leroy trying to hide in the shower (I think he knows)

Leroy "sunning" himself under the heat lamp…..he's feeling spoiled

The Water Fountain, trying to caution me I think….

Madeline bringing home the peeps

Half a dozen "hot chicks" (as my friend's husband pointed out)

Taking a swig from the fountain

Crashed after an exhausting car ride home

A hopeful Leroy, waiting to politely introduce himself to the newest family members


A sweet Red Sex-Link cuddling with her Black Star Peep

Why we thought maybe they were dying


Additional predators to watch out for

I know you want to see more, but you will have to be patient. I haven't uploaded the addition of the six Rhode Island Reds. But I am happy to report that we are on day two with all 12 and so far, all are still alive and I have even had to make a chicken-wire cover for the brooding box because they are totally brilliant and have already started trying to fly! They are such naturals! It makes our hearts happy.

Have a great day! 


The Cat that was Half Dog

The sun was out, the day was warm(ish) and in a great wave of compassion for our lazy cat who had been following the sunlight around all day in front of the windows, I let him out. Letting the inner-Libertarian shine through a little, I figured if he wanted to take the risk of getting eaten by coyotes, well then, who was I to stop him. Let him make his own choices for crying out loud…..

At any rate, he was prowling way out yonder, when the kids decided to go chase him down. I watched from the back porch as Lily snuck up behind Leroy and then yelled over her shoulder:

"Hey Mom! Leroy is pointing like he found something!"

"That's because he is part dog," I shouted back at her.

"REALLY?????" she yelled.

"Yeah, he's part Ridgeback, part Pointer and half cat," I said, laughing.

"Seriously, Mom?" she asked, only now with a hint of skepticism.

"NO LILY! Our cat is not. part. dog!" I said emphatically.

"Oh!" and off she went, giggling at herself.

The next day I overheard Lily telling the neighbor kids that our cat was part dog and that is why he is such a great hunter (you know, like a cat…..) Their mom gave me a quizzical look. I just shrugged my shoulders and said, "Kids."


Why Everyone Needs a Friend Who Has a Pet Leech

Before I begin, I just have to say, this whole moving to Mars thing has really given me a new perspective. About everything. I can't quite tell if people living in the suburbs are living in an entirely false bubble that will one day pop, allowing the real world to ooze in around, or if I have walked onto the movie set of a flick that I am pretty sure will go straight to reality TV; I can't say just yet. But my eyes are wide open. (Mostly because I need to duck in case of stray bullets from illegal hunting…. No, seriously. Please recall the place down the street where we oft see a guy jump out of his vehicle in full camouflage and a rifle over his shoulder; to which Solomon excitedly exclaimed the first time: "Hey, Look! My Friend!"……"Why is he your friend Solly?"….."Because he has a pewer!"…..I am pretty sure he rolled his three year old eyes at me and murmured "duh" too. So apparently, where we were worried about Liam's potential for someday walking off with some stranger because the entire world is his playmate….no, not THAT kind of playmate, sheesh!….we will have to keep an even closer watch on Solly who apparently has at least two expectations of his friends: Ammo and Camo.)

At any rate, I have made two friends here. And really, they are the same two friends I seem to make everywhere I go before filling in the space in between these two extremes. (Please excuse my overgeneralizing and for those of you who know me, feel free to try and figure out where you fit in.)

The first is a neighbor; an exceedingly smart (majored in math at an Ivy League) stay at home mother of two children, who, from what I can gather, will be my responsible friend; the one who will make me laugh with her dry, witty humor, and who will laugh with/at me (and my folly) yet will also help me clean up the messes. Because she realizes she will be considered an accomplice otherwise. And her good record is so far unblemished. But I love her anyway. And bonus! She has agreed to walk with me once a week because apparently it is very, very lonely out in the country and I will just have to do. (She happens to have the same name as my last friend who fit this role so it has been a VERY easy transition from that standpoint.)

The second friend is like looking into a mirror….if that mirror reflected the me that would have existed if I hadn't married someone who was a little more like friend number one: responsible and somewhat normal. (Yes, I just called Kurt normal. Just roll with it here.)

You see, friend number two is like me outfitted with a hyper-drive (yes, it is possible to be more hyper than I already am…..I am guessing if you gave me some sort of illegal stimulant, and then doused me in caffeine and lit me on fire, then you would come close to the energy level of this friend.) She lives in a little tiny farm house on 100 acres with her three kids. And she has a scrap yard. (With a big metal cow out front.) And drives a dump truck. (Which she has promised to let me drive as soon as the snow melts. Watch out Mars!) And she loves God as if He were her best friend (and perhaps weekend drinking buddy) so I am pretty sure this is my in y'all!

Her house is like a museum of artifacts from the late 70s and early 80s: think Fisher Price as it used to be, with the big red barn, the yellow house that opened in the middle, the airplane, the choking hazard people with which our parents used to knowingly let us tempt fate each and every day. She has every lunchbox, metal and otherwise, that I owned as a child. Some would say she is a wee bit of a hoarder, I call her a brilliant historian and an innovative business woman! (Hey, that junk relocation thing she's got going is a HUGE success in the summer time!)

So we were getting ready to make lunch for the kids the other day (venison that she may or may not have accidentally killed and then processed in her own yard with or without a permit) and mac-n-cheese, when I caught site of a bowl of water on the windowsill.

"That's my pet leech," she said plainly. "I think it is dead though." I looked closer and saw that it was belly up and obviously not showing the least bit of interest in the struggling fly floating on top. Then it occurred to me that leeches probably don't eat flies and that all I really know about leeches I learned from that one memorable scene in Stand By Me. Oh and whatever little bit we learned about ancient medicine in elementary Social Studies, at least, I think we did as I probably wasn't paying much attention.

"Really? You never told me you had a pet leech!" I said, brimming with excitement. "What do you feed him?"

Seeing that I was truly interested, she lively told me all about this particular leech that she "had never seen laying on his back like that" so she was pretty certain he must have died. But she was keeping him a little longer to make sure. Because that's what caring people do, Kurt! Stop judging us!

"I have had this one since September and he has survived on a mix of fish food and turtle food and an occasional slab of raw meat," she said. "I got him out there in our pond." I made a mental note not to go swimming in her pond, but to consider throwing in one of the kids if they ever cross that line…..

"And this, my new friend, is why I TOTALLY LOVE YOU ALREADY!" I said. "Have I told you about how I almost had a pet vole?" After sharing with her my story of woe (thanks to my exceedingly rational husband who doesn't understand the life lessons our kids would benefit from by learning to take care of, um, something more needy than themselves, like voles and leeches, you know, nature) and upon getting to the part where Kurt said I couldn't bring it home, she simply nodded in understanding and then asked, "Did you take it home anyway?" I will have to just stop here and admit that she is no longer married and I can only imagine that perhaps that is the difference in our fates: I, albeit begrudgingly, will walk away from my crazier ideas knowing that some of them may cause irreparable harm to other adult-types in the house….like the time (yesterday) I almost bought a peacock….and it almost gave Kurt a heart attack….

Anyway, after talking leeches she took me on a show and tell adventure where I learned all about her Death Tree, that is, the tree they hang their dead animal finds on during the year, kinda like a really morbid Christmas Tree, if Christmas was all about death instead of birth. (Not the tree you want to happen upon while lost outside on a dark and stormy night, might I add.) You see, you can't just leave the dead critters on the ground because they will rot. By hanging them from the branches of the tree, they will simply dry out and then you can put them in your display case (yes, she has a display case that is, at once, totally awesome and completely incredible….incredible in the way a Southern Belle might describe a gruesome train wreck anyway.) It has one of the most well preserved, taxidermied (which according to my computer should actually say taxidermic but I don't trust my computer because I am pretty sure he is just angry that I allowed Solomon to damage him with a screw driver earlier today….like it is MY FAULT that three year old is a destructive beast who searches out ways to give me headaches every possible waking moment, wait, where was I?) oh yeah, the most incredible taxidermied turtle I have ever seen, a small snake frozen in a stretched out crawling position like it died choking on a candy bar mid-stroll, a jar with three different deer fetuses in various stages of pre-birth doing some sort of sad, shoulda-woulda-coulda dance, almost like the deer version of The Three Graces only grosser and less artsy, various bones, a dried gator head (bought at a flea market because obviously she didn't find THAT in her pond), a really cool Great Blue Heron skull (which you totally can tell exactly what it is when you see it which makes me feel like my mom's persistent and unintentional bird identification lessons really paid off) and so on and so forth.

She is the type of friend that, when it was time to go, sent Liam off with a little bug catcher filled with leaves and a dead wooly caterpillar, because it was only fair that Liam had something to play with since Solly was going home with a broken toy car that had Woody at the steering wheel. You know, dead Woody, dead Wooly, same difference.

And that is why I love my husband so much: because he has made it possible for me to finally have a friend who is as screwy as I am; one who is not afraid to be herself, pet leeches and all.

Thanks sweetheart! (Please remember that moving was your idea, not mine!)



Poultry Conversations

Recently, we (and by 'we' I mean 'I') have been looking into chicken stuff: coops, supplies, feed, pullets, etc. in order to be ready for our spring chickens which I, er, we will order soon. I We have been searching both in person (at local farm stores), in the Horse Trader newspaper, and online via Craigslist to try to get the best deals. As we were browsing online today, we ran across this ad for peacocks obviously MEANT FOR ME (I mean us) listed in our local Craigslist:

***Beautiful Male and Female, Hatched last summer, so only about 9 months old. Very tame, and they don't leave the property, you might have to cage them for a while till they get used to there new surroundings. They eat right out of your hand. $125 each or $225 for both. Call John…..***

Along with the incorrect use of the word there, it had several pictures of beautiful peacocks just ready and waiting for us to come and get them. So I immediately emailed Kurt:

Me:  Hope you don't mind, we bought one of these for our yard (and I included the above link).

Kurt: Heh, good thing I know you're kidding, otherwise I'd have a stroke.

Me: Note to self, take back male peacock.

Me: You know you kind of owe me a peacock, I practically moved to your home town and this guy will at least make it feel more like home to me. 

Me (figuring he was seriously contemplating since I hadn't heard from him in several minutes at least): Plus, I hear peacocks make a good impression on your neighbors. :)

Kurt: Um…..no

KILLJOY! Obviously he does not understanding the mutual support and compromise that is supposed to take place in a relationship. I mean, whatever happened with "for better or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, with chickens and peacocks, so long as we both shall live"???

Maybe we will get lucky and a stray peacock will somehow miraculously find its way into our yard and find a nice big peacock meal waiting for him…..I should probably add peacock food to my list, just in case…..

Addendum: About 30 minutes after this email conversation I get a call from Kurt that went like this:

Me: Hello?

Kurt (not even bothering with hello): You were kidding right?

Me (after almost hyperventilating from laughing so hard): Hee hee, yes ……  (by which I mean, sure, let's go with that, and we'll pretend I don't pray everyday for a stray to accidentally show up…..)