Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's Been Forever!

My son found my blog at school by searching his name on Bing, and we had a good laugh over the post he found. Time has sure flown! It seems like every time I turn around it's Friday again, which is a lot better than always being Monday.
School is hard. A professor explained why when she told me about dendrites, and how if you're out of school for a long time they shrivel up. When you start back to school, they're forced to reroute and regrow. So that's why it hurts. But I'm still loving it.
In fact, today is a celebration day. I got my grade for my first really real speech in speech class. It was a 99% with compliments underlined! Yes, it's a good day. Plus, there's no school tomorrow, and my parentals are coming tonight to spend the night!!!
We've had some drama though. A predator has been killing some of my beloved birds. My beautiful golden sex link was struck down IN the chicken yard IN broad daylight! I couldn't
believe it. Then, when we were in Idaho, two Barred Rocks fled and left nought but their feet and feathers. It's a good thing I'm married to a stud, I tell you. Look what he did!
Lewis caught the culprit in the act. He dropped him in one shot, so animal lovers, he didn't feel a thing.
We are loving our little farm though. We have two goats, Cymbeline (a milk goat when she's bred) and Ophelia (a meat goat). Lewis built them this cute little barn we call the Garn. For goat barn, get it?

Aren't they such cute girls? Liam has been worried that we're going to kill them and eat them. I tell him not to worry, we're not going to eat them, just their babies. Can you pre-pay for counselling?

Their cozy little home.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My First Day of School, or Earlgirl's Descent into Hell

Look at me! I'm all excited, not knowing what humiliations are in store.

I was so prepared for today. I'd printed my schedule, walked the route I needed to take, packed my bag the night before with a bazillion pens, water and trail mix (just in case). It didn't make any difference. My day was the BOMB. Like Hiroshima. It started out great, I got pictures of me with my backpack, heading off to adventure. I left home at 8:05, which was cutting it a bit fine. That put me there with 5 minutes to make it from the parking lot to my seat. Do-able. Especially for the first day. Just as I was pulling up, I grabbed my schedule from my bag. To my horror, it wasn't my schedule, it was a receipt for my parking pass. I knew what building to go to, but I had no idea what class it was, or what room number! My heart did a little herky jerky thing, then the mom in me took over. I'd walked the route on Friday. I would remember the room when I saw it. I made it to the right building, but couldn't recognize the class room. Curses. By this time classes had started 5 minutes ago. There was nothing for it but to head to the registrar's office and get another copy. But I didn't have my pin memorized, and I didn't have it with me. I still raced to the office, and found an empty computer. I guessed my pin correctly (THANK YOU THANK YOU!) and after two tries, printed my schedule. I dashed back to the right building and made it to the exact same room I'd been hesitating over 10 minutes before. I took a deep breath, and interrupted the teacher 15 minutes into a 50 minute class. Nice. Naturally, the only seat available was front and center. I slid into it and tried to disappear. I grabbed my text and notebook and pretended that I'd been there all along. The teacher resumed his lecture, and mortification turned to horror. I had no idea what he was saying. He was using terms and symbols I didn't know existed. Was this Math 107? How could this be? Was this a dream? I need this class. NEED IT. I can't get into the Ed program without it. And he's speaking Greek in the first 15 minutes of the first day. I'm screwed. I wonder, am I in the right room? I look around me, and everyone has the same text as I do. All the while, the teacher is looking at me strangely, like "who are you?" Then I start to notice other things, like this girl to my left has pages of handwritten equations. He's calling students by name, like he already knows them. Something is wrong, very wrong. He's asking them if anyone had any problems with the homework. Then my heart stops. And I know. Today isn't the first day of school. I've gotten the day wrong. As soon as he finishes, I'm up there in a flash. "Um, you know those nightmares you have about the first day of school? I'm living one right now." I explain my mistake, and assure him that I'm actually a responsible adult and the mother of 5 sons, and an exchange student, who's waited 15 years to go to school, and I thought this was the first day, and how screwed actually am I? He laughs and fills me in on the mountain of assignments I've missed. I thank him, apologize again, and sprint across campus to my next class. Every other teacher laughed with me and got me up to speed. As I drove toward home, I was laughing hysterically. No schedule. 15 minutes late. Showing up on the 3rd day of class. At least I wasn't naked, right?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dear Middle School Writing Teacher:

Upon receiving my very own writing assignment. Logan declined to answer some very personal questions with unswerving veracity. I allowed him to complete the assignment as a work of fiction.
Who is your greatest hero?
Adolf Hitler, because he can grow a killer mustache. (Get it? Killer?)
What is your least favorite chore?
Plasma donation day.
What would be your most cherished gift?
My very own bed in the house, the shed roof leaks in the rain.
What is your favorite subject at school?
Lunch, it's the only meal I get all day.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
Learning to wipe myself was the best 13th birthday present I could give myself.
What is your greatest aspiration?
To be first lady of the United States.
Do you feel like the kids at school like you?
They laugh every time I come near, so they must like me a lot!
What is your least favorite subject?
Gym, for what happens to me in the locker room.
What is your biggest complaint about your family?
They make me dress in girls clothes at home.

It went on and on, and we laughed until we cried.
Then she sent the assignment home for the parents to fill out. What? To test us to see how well we know our child. Nuh uh. Not going to happen.
I wrote this letter and stapled it to the assignment.

Dear Teacher,

When Logan brought the interest inventory home, he was very uncomfortable with the assignment. He felt that his biggest fears, disappointments and embarrassments are something he’d rather keep to himself. The sharing of personal details like that occurs best when a relationship of respect and trust has been developed, and he has simply not had the time or opportunity to develop that with you. I understand that the ability to access strong emotional experiences is vital for good writing, and such introspection doesn’t come naturally to middle schoolers. Becoming self aware is an important process that I applaud.

Inventories like this also could be valuable for assessing the mental health or family stability of a student. Please rest assured that Logan is a valued and loved member of our very intact family. In fact, filling out his inventory was a bonding family activity that made us laugh until we cried. He had my encouragement to make it a work of fiction. Writing fiction is still writing, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

Giving parents a writing assignment makes me equally as uncomfortable as it made Logan. It reminds me of the time my CPS-worker sister did a bonding assessment on my toddler and me unawares, long before she became a parent. So I guess we both found the assignment intrusive and kind of freaky. We can’t decide; is it a nosey getting-to-know-you exercise, or a let’s see how well these parents know their kid exercise? Either one, we’d rather abstain.

Logan loves to write. He’s been writing fifty-plus page stories for years. He will enjoy learning all that you have to teach him this year. He’s a great kid with a positive attitude, and he’ll knock himself out trying to please you and perform up to your expectations. Just don’t expect him to dish about his private bidness.

Reclusively yours,


Friday, September 10, 2010

Sweet September

What's sweet about September? Not much, but does roll off the tongue, doesn't it? Our big news is that a skunk killed both our ducks! Kit Kat and Sweaty Bicep, alas, are no more. We set traps and on the second night, the mystery killer was revealed. It was none other than an adorable skunk. Seriously, it had the sweetest face! Of course, I didn't see its face until after it was dead and I was in no danger of being sprayed....

This is our dead skunk. Lewis was merciful, and put it to sleep under a tarp with fumes piped in from a tube in the exhaust pipe. It doesn't look like a vicious killer, does it?
But this is what it did to me sweet little Leghorn that was just getting ready to lay thundreds of eggs for me.
Note to Skunk: Don't come between me and my beloved chickies and/or ducks. The fumes of justice will seep in upon you.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Did This Just Really Happen?

How could time have flown like this? I went from this, in 2005,

To this 2 year old in 2007 wistfully watching his best buddies leave him,
To this confident boy, ready to take on life. I just put this kiddo on a school bus, and as he made his big leap into the wide, wide world, I felt a giant tug under my ribs.
There he goes!

There he is, sitting next to Kelton peeking over the seat.

So proud of you Liam!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Making Tear Soup

A sweet friend stopped by yesterday and gave me a present. When I opened it up, there was a children's book called Tear Soup. Along with the story, there was a journal, a very applicable copy of a conference talk, and a letter from her. She is also acquainted with grief, and her words touched my heart so much that there are puckers on the letter now. I laid down and read the story. Lewis has been out of town, so I really had time to think and ponder. I went out to the shop and dug up all the photos of Michael I could find. I started writing in the journal all the things Michael's children will want to know about him. An idea hit me, and I scoured my old email archives and found a treasure trove of communication between us. I cleaned the house and got some really cleansing sobbing done. I feel a little better for it. I found some really fun pictures too.

Did you know gmail keeps a record of every IM session? I didn't, and I'm so glad they do! Take a look at one I found:

2:54 PM michael: Hey sis,
me: Hello Brutha'
2:57 PM michael: How's life?
me: busy, exciting, and stretching me. you?
2:59 PM michael: nice, I'm in the lull time of the day. these are the only thirty minutes of my day until I go to sleep that I can relax.
me: I'm kinda doing that too.
3:00 PM michael: so, any new drama?
3:01 PM me: yeah, an electrical inspector came by that could have cost us 20,000. But it didn't. I almost cried. Just a few lilttle changes to the basement bathroom, and all this well.
3:03 PM michael: hurray!
we might have made new friends,
me: yeah? anyone interesting?
michael: Jen has been so starved for friends she been getting a little depressed
3:04 PM they live down the street and have a great Dane 2 six feet albino boas and a bearded dragon
me: you're not friend enough for her? What is she, some kind of women's libber?
michael: and they shoot guns for fun!
3:05 PM I guess not
me: wow, they sound cool!
I know I love my friends. We've been appreciating the beauty of gerard butler today.
3:06 PM michael: I'm always cautions when I start hanging out with people. but Jen just throws herself into friendships
Who is that?
3:07 PM me: who's that? Gerard Butler of 300 fame?
michael: ?
me: Holy hunk of manliness fame? We've been watching P.S. I love you.
3:08 PM You've never seen the cover of the movie 300?
michael: are you talking about the guy in 300?
me: yeah. gerard butler.
3:09 PM michael: oh okay, crazy movie
yep very manily
me: never seen it.
3:11 PM michael: clean flicks. I loved it until a bad guy forces this guys wife to sleep with him. that kind of stuff enrages me. so the whole movie has a bad taste in my mouth
me: gotta dash, kid in a tree!

It just makes me smile. Our conversations were frequently about nothing much, but there were the ones, usually when we were walking together, that I never want to forget. I'm glad I have a special journal now to record them in. So this has been an intense weekend, but a good one. The story helped me realize that I don't have to sidestep the hard days. I'm just making tear soup and that's part of the process of healing.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Forks in the Road

I feel like I've been in a super-intensive course on life in the last couple of weeks since my brother died. I've learned so very much- about what's really important, what's not, about the human condition, and what paths lead to the most peace. Here are some musings:

I've learned from my brother that moments and relationships are not to be neglected. You'll never regret loving investment in the lives of others. You may regret busyness, time wasted, self-indulgent isolation (ahem, guilty)but never the smiles, hugs and meaningful contact.

I've learned that success at the end of this life really is measured on how determined you are to keep trying, and giving what you have to give. You don't need to be someone flashy, super financially successful, or with really prestigious responsibilities at church to be greeted as a heroic finisher of this test.
I'll never forget the look on my brother's face when I first saw his body. He hadn't been 'doctored' up yet, and it was a very emotionally and physically raw experience. I looked into that precious, familiar face. I saw the most beautiful hint of a smile. There was such peace, such pride and satisfaction. There was a powerful witness that this good man had finished his mission successfully.
Knowing my brother so well, and we were confidants, knowing his struggles, frustrations and weaknesses, has really helped me to see my life in a different way. I've learned that feeling discouraged at your progress in life, feeling weak or ineffectual, feeling like you are nowhere near where you should be in any given area, is just part of the human condition. It is part of this mortal state that we all will leave behind when we leave this life. It's not a sign of failure or spiritual retardation- it's just life. If I'm waiting to feel totally on top of things- to feel like I'm finally picking up speed and cruising along this highway of life- as a sign that I've "made it", I'll be waiting in dread my whole life. That's just not what this life is about.

I'm learning so much about grief. Right now, my favorite scripture is Isaiah 61:3. It talks about mourning in Zion, which I take to mean placing your grief at the feet of the Lord, and letting Him do what he can with it. If we're willing to do this, and forgo regrets, blame, and anger, He promises us "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." I have really, truly felt these promises come true for me. Not all the time, but enough to get through the day. The best promise is in the next sentence: "that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord." To me, this means that my family's spiritual roots will grow so deep, that this experience will give us strength and faith that will last generations.

I've also realized that every time something hurts us, disappoints us, or messes with the way we think life should be, it's like a fork in the road. We're presented with a choice, whether we're conscious of it or not. I was most aware of this during our journey to the funeral. Something had gone wrong, and it hurt. I let a few tears out, then there was almost a voice in my head. "You can choose to be hurt, or you can choose peace." I was perfectly justified either way. As soon as I was conscious of that fork in the road, it was easy to choose peace. I immediately felt better. I could let it go. I was aware today of another fork in the road. Today was a hard day, and I was feeling the loss very keenly. I spent hours on Michael's facebook page throughout the day. I pored over pictures, watched videos over and over. A friend stopped by, and our conversation turned to the heavy burdens she was carrying. My weight of grief lifted as I showed love and concern. There came that voice again, whispering that I could choose. I could turn inward and make a meal of my pain and loss, or I could open my heart and turn outward and find relief in caring for others. Again, I could be justified either way. That was a pretty powerful lesson for me.
This hasn't been easy. It really hurts. I'm so grateful though, really flooded with gratitude for the help, the peace, the little messages that all is well. Michael has proven to still be the caring brother he was in life. I've learned so much about him, about what is important to him, in the help and little 'jobs' we've been given. I've never been more sure of life after death. I've never been less afraid of death. I really, truly look forward to the day when we're together again.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

I know where my brother is. I know he still exists. I can feel him, hear him in my mind, sometimes laughing, sometimes rueful, but always loving. I know with absolute certainty that someday, his dramatic and too-early exit will make perfect sense, and that we will be astounded at the beauty and majesty of our Father's plan for our family.

I can't introduce you to my brother. How does one describe the coolest brother in the world? One who, when he shows up, draws children out of the woodwork like the pied piper? One who plays guitar in a rock band, who has (and uses) actual ninja swords? One who can envelope you in a hug so huge you can barely see the light of day? One who always wants to talk to you, one who is always dreaming up new adventures.... I can't really do him justice. All I can say, is that it is unfathomable that the world can keep turning, that the sun can still rise without him.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Wow, we've had some crazy days lately. First of all, we got here and Lewis got busy setting up a business to do business development consulting. He got all up and rolling, then he drove into the parking lot of a dealership. His stomach turned. I told him he didn't have to work in the auto industry anymore. We have some money left from when our house sold, so he has a little time to figure out what he really WANTS to do. How many people get a chance to do that? Take some time find what will really be fun and interesting to do. That's the short version. The longer, more painful version contains many headaches, sleepless nights, horrible stress-induced allergic reactions. To get to a place where we felt freed up to think outside the box, Lewis got a blessing from his father where he was told to "do what will bring you joy." On the short drive home from Lewis' parents house, a thought took hold of me, something totally out of the blue. Here's the result- I'm going back to school to be a high school teacher. Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!!
It's nothing I would have ever thought of, but I can't tell you how excited I am. I just paid my tuition today, and got a horrible picture taken for my student ID. How hilarious is that?
I have an easy schedule starting in Sept, at a local jr college. I leave after the kiddos leave for school, and I get back a few minutes after Liam gets off the bus. With Lewis working from home(I'll get to that in a minute), Leebee will have Daddy to welcome him home and eat his lunch with. Come January, I'll start the secondary ed program at EWU.
Lewis, after reading 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller, realized he's happiest when he's building things and using his artistic side. So, his first month giving art a try, he's secured enough commissions to pay the bills. He also is doing some independent construction work on the side, which he loves, because he gets to use his cool power tools. It's really weird, but we've been able to plan our lives from the bottom up- figure out what's most important and build up from there. Once I registered for school (and got over the freak out over that huge change) I haven't had another sleepless night. I don't worry about the future any more. A huge burden has been lifted. Life is very good, and we have SO much time together as a family, which is the most important thing for us.
Here's a painting he did of Dainon; I love it. I want him to do one of me now. Can't you just picture how cool it would be to have a gigantic nude, right as you come in the door? ;)

Lewis watched 5 boys for me when I went to girls camp, earning himself a crown in heaven. Can you imagine 10 boys for 6 days?
Liam was in heaven too. He had so many little buddies to play with.
Lewis is getting ready for the boy scout high adventure, they made model trebuchets to get ready for the big one they're going to make. So life is good! We're happy, healthy, and all is well!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Photoshop Fun

Lewis bought me a cool camera when our house sold, and I've been having a great time figuring it out. So far, I have the point, click and focus parts pretty much down. Aperture, focal length and ISO are pretty much eluding me, but I'm trying. Yesterday I dove into the deep waters of photoshop. I watched tutorials on youtube, and had to pause them every few seconds and rewind over and over. Photoshop is like the mind of a woman, to a man. Unfathomable depths. You can totally screw things up with some errand click you didn't realize you even did. I had to restart things several times. But I'm learning. I'll get it, I promise. Here are some of my projects today:

I know some day soon I'll laugh at what a terrible job I did on these, but today, I'm proud of myself!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Our Growing Family

We did it! We've been talking a lot lately about expanding our family, so we all went down to the feed store and we did it!

Is there anything cuter than a baby chick?
How about a baby duck?
What about two of them, a male and a female, that love and cuddle each other? It's so adorable, if you pick one of them up, the other cries until you cuddle them both. They kiss when they're reunited. It's just soooo sweet! Dainon and Logan have named them Kit Kat and Sweaty Bicep. Guess which one is the boy?
Our murderous chicken-killing dog was irresistibly drawn to the new babies. I can just hear her thinking, "Just one little bite! That's all I ask!"
Here's Logan holding the cuddling ducks, with Jill looking on- waiting, hoping.

"One day, one sweet day, you're gonna get lax. You're gonna turn your head for just a second, and I'll be ready."
We got a mix of eaters and layers. In just five short weeks, I get to post about the guys chopping 5 of their heads off. Eek!
The rest, ten of them, get to be ours for good. Or at least until Jill, hawks, or coyotes get them. What do you think? How long will it be until the first one moves on to its reward?
"Why ducks?" you ask. I thought they would be fun. We'll let them have little ducky babies, and either eat them, or let someone who likes baby ducks eat them. We'll keep the breeding pair around though. What's a little farm without ducks?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Catch Up

I feel like I'm so behind. I've started to post so many times, but just get diverted before I'm done. So I decided to give a reader's digest version of the last few weeks.

*I'm obsessed with home decorating lately. I've scored big time at yard sales, and have bought a ton of spray paint. I'm having the time of my life.

*I had a great Mother's Day. I scored a lilac, burning bush, heirloom tomatoes, chocolates and adorable things from my boys.

*I got to speak in Church on Mother's Day, along with Lewis and Dainon. I love speaking in church. I wish I could do it every week, but they won't let me :)

*I hosted the whole Earl clan that very same day. We ate, and played baseball in our field. Good times, good times.

*My Mom, Dad and Grandma came over for a visit. We took them all over the back of the property, even the boys' fort. They were good sports.
*Lilacs are blooming right outside my back door, leaving me transported with joy.

*Fruit trees are blooming, and hidden treasures in the back forest have been found: massive elderberry trees, choke cherry bushes, and a wild apple tree. Jam, anyone?

*We're still Earls, even though we moved. So of course there is a rope swing, and kids to play with Kelton.

*I'm taking my first baby steps at decorating. What do you think? Like the little mirrors and basin and pitcher? Recognize them from the spray paint picture?

*Jill is in heaven digging everywhere for gophers. No squirrels to chase here.

* Isn't this picture a thing of beauty? Three cheers for having boys old enough to mow the lawn!

*The boys had their Father/Son campout, which is also known as National Mothers of Only Sons Holiday. I was down with a grevious injury (I sliced the top of my foot pretty deeply) and was ordered to STAY DOWN. Which I did, so my friend Elisa brought a girls night party to me. Tons of food, lots of laughs... it was great.

We have big plans coming up. They involve these, >and these.

And just maybe this: