Saturday, February 28, 2009

Here's what's cookin'

Mark and I had a heart to heart this morning about the fact that we hate when each
other sneezes. It's deep and important conversations like this that form the bedrock of our marriage.
As we enjoyed our morning coffee and newspaper together, I sneezed, and he said 'I really hate it when you sneeze.'

And I was like, 'I know! Right?' That's why I always apologize when I do it.

I said I pretty much hate it when anyone sneezes, but especially when he does it.

And we had a good laugh.

I'm cooking today. The carpenter's working on the bathroom and the kids are poorly, so we're stuck here. Plus there are rotten bananas to be made into bread before they liquefy.

I've been given a serious charge to create crab meat stuffed mushrooms, also.

But more importantly, the coondog is out of meat. The meat that we cook on the stove with julienned garlic to create a sumptuous broth for Mark to heat and pour over her food every morning. The broth that simmers to perfection on the stove while we all eat turkey sandwiches. The non-negotiable part of the dog's meal that means my Pyrex measuring cups are always left somewhere on the farm other than my kitchen cupboard. And it's not the same dish every time. Perish the thought. Today's menu includes a single badly freezer burned chicken breast and a steak end from the cow we harvested recently. We wrapped it up especially for her that day.

So if you find a package in my freezer labelled 'Dog' it doesn't contain dog, it's for the dog. The package that says 'Tongue' however is in fact a tongue. And it's not for the dog.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Comedy Gold

That's 'SHAT FISH' if you can't make it out clearly. Makes me laugh every time I drive by.
Try it, you'll like it.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

More House Talk and I Fell Down.

I keep trying to think of a word for Lily's not quite malapropisms, but I'm just not feeling clever enough.

She hit me with another one this morning. Since her nose was running she asked me to get her some 'Stuffs.' You know, Stuffs tissues. Some people call 'em Puffs, whatever.

For reading 8 books a month for school she earns free personal pan pizzas at Pizza Hot.

She gets scratched by the thorns on the jaguars in the woods.

She likes to eat cemeteries. The rest of us call it asparagus. Not sure how that mix up occurred.

Salt is always sugar and sugar is always salt.

Handburgers. Because you eat them with your hand.

And her old school baby talk, granket for blanket, fuffess for princess, zhues for shoes.

Now when she thinks no one is watching or listening you can catch her humming anything from the Bridal March to The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme.) Could be something from Sgt. Pepper's or Deep Purple or The Rolling Stones. I really don't know how she knows this crap.

And The Eyebrows. We have been trying to capture them on film for a long time, but they're elusive. She really can't get the full on Eyebrows at will, it's gotta be spontaneous, but this is close:

It took a lot of tries, too.

Aggie is on her first Girl Scout sleepover as I write. They went to the Carnegie Science Center for the night. The theme is Urban Legends. I hope she loves it as much as I loved Girl Scout sleepovers and I'm pretty sure she will because I ceased to exist the minute she stepped into the parking lot.

Sam has The Germ. But hey, I finally let a kid stay home from school when they were actually sick! So he's been in the recliner all day. He's had a couple mild hot toddies and got to spend part of the day without parental supervision when Mark & I went to town. Living large, he is.

Oh, and I almost forgot, I got bucked off. Yep. It was rainy but mild today so I took the rope halter and some reins up into the pasture with the intention of taking Nikki in a few circles inside the fence. Instead, I bumped into Admiral first and he picked up the halter in his mouth like a dog, so I haltered him instead. I hopped on his muddy back and walked him around for maybe a minute before Nikki came tearing across the field toward us. I should have remember that a slight warm up like today makes them super nutso playful. She came from behind so I wasn't expecting her and Admiral took off after her up the hill, in and out of the trees, gaining speed. I was half laughing and half holding on. I had to lie down on his neck to duck branches, and we eventually made it to the top gate. I didn't really try to slow him because it was too fun. Then Nikki spun off back down the hill and he wanted to follow just as fast but I wasn't up to galloping bareback down the muddy hill so I held him back. I knew he was majorly frustrated, but I was only asking for the smallest amount of patience. Just get me back down the hill, that's all.

So we made it halfway down before his nose dropped to the ground, he gave a couple baby bucks, and down I went in the mud. He tried to make a run for it, but I was quick enough to snatch him up before he could get up enough speed to escape me. I wasn't too keen about trying to get bucked off into the mud again, but I knew I couldn't just let Admiral think he could buck me off and keep me off, so I got back on & rode the rest of the way down the hill.

I couldn't bear to make him work when Nikki was having so much fun without him, so I turned him loose with a 'Woohoo!' and threw my hands in the air to get them both running and bucking and rearing. 'Woohoo!' and they'd gallop past. 'Woohoo!' and they'd kick out and really turn on the speed. I pretty much loved every muddy minute of it, even the slow motion falling on my butt in the mud.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I've got my eye on you.

I'm looking at you.

Watching. Studying. While you talk about your windshield or your invoice or the weather. Your job, your dog, your grandchildren. Kids today, politicians, the economy.

I can't help it. When I first see you, before you walk through the door, my insides crumble. Fight or flight. I want to run. Then I bolster myself for the impending small talk. It's not that I don't like you. Well, sometimes I don't, because you're mean, but mostly because I wear myself out during the conversation.

First I wonder if you're going to be nice to me. Or if you're a man, whether you're going to suck your breath in through your teeth and try to pin me down with that lecherous grin. I won't give you the satisfaction. But it's tiring to watch you ogle my boobs. All the while I'm studying your yellow teeth, the cigarette smoke you carried in with you. Wondering about the woman who has to cut your hair or the waitress who has to wait on you at lunch.

I wonder what your wife thinks of you.

Or maybe you're a sweet little old lady shuffling in and you'll sit at my desk and chat. Make an event out of paying your bill. Not every old lady is wise, but I think you are. Not in a fairytale kind of way, but practical. I try to glean what I can from your stories. How tough were you? What kind of mother were you? Were you pretty in your youth? Were you always this self-assured? What kind of marriage did you have?

Will I hobble around town in a similar knit cap all year long?

Man or woman. Young, old, fat, skinny, rich, poor, sane, crazy.

The shape of your lips when you talk. The way you pronounce 'Saturday.' Whether you really think I'm buying any of this. How you make a big show of producing your invoice out of your oversized purse or pocket protector, pulling out your checkbook, putting on your glasses, reading and rereading, carefully writing out your check and presenting it to me with pride.
How in the hell you get your hair to do that. Ugh, the smell of your perfume. Or lack of deodorant. Or both.
I wonder how you have a girl/boyfriend or spouse, because, well, wow. Or conversely, how did you get your teeth so white. What's it like having skin that soft and pretty? Are you really that cheerful?

For some of you, it's the same exact conversation every single time you come in here. Is that OK with you? Because it's not always my fault. Some of you are obviously on or off your meds. Seriously, you said hello to Jesus as you gazed directly over my brother's head. You I like. But I do worry about you.
Dude with the new dangle cross earring and not a single tooth. You're always friendly and respectful. 'appreciate that.
Male nurse in the black leather motorcycle jacket, you are a frickin drama queen. Get over yourself.
Grown woman with the plush kitty cat purse. What made you chose those tattoos? Are you always this timid? Will my curly hair eventually look like yours if I let it go grey?

And if you stay for any longer than 5 or 10 minutes and we're not discussing actual business (or horses, there is no time limit on discussing horses. You have my complete attention.) I will start to panic a little. Because my brain is becoming exhausted from all the tangents I've travelled while you were talking. My cheeks are starting to hurt a little from holding this cramping smile. And maybe I can feel myself sweating or it feels like there's an eyelash in my eye or there's a booger hanging or my eye is twitching or am I staring at you too hard or coming off unpleasant in some way. I'm telling myself to hold on, focus. You can get through this. It's important to me that I really try to give you my full attention while you're here.

So if it's 4 o'clock and I look a little conquered, just give me a second to snap to. I'll be right with you.

And all that discomfort starts to accumulate until I wake up on an ordinary Tuesday, shower, make coffee, pack my first grader's lunch, and crawl back in bed and cry for a couple minutes. So it goes.

What really freaked me out today though, was that my mini-me Lil had a similar meltdown this morning. And I can't even think of when she's ever done that. She didn't see me cracking up, so it wasn't that. We had a nice cuddle on the couch last night. She wasn't up late. She seemed fine to me.

I was scraping ice off my windshield as she walked out to the bus & she quietly burst into tears. I asked her what was wrong and she said that she didn't know why she was crying. That her throat was 'clogged.' I whispered to her that I was having a bad morning too, that I wanted to stay home, but for her to look forward to the weekend and sleeping over at Nanny's. I told her that she'd feel better once she got to school, to just try to relax. She looked miserable as I drove away.

So I've either genetically screwed her over or didn't realize that I wasn't hiding my own craziness well enough and made her tense that way.
Maybe it's the barometric pressure or something. Hell, maybe I sent her to school sick again. Chalk another up. Why not.
We had a pretty good weekend, too.

Friday was Lily's first ever having a friend sleep over. Her little first grade BFF. It's funny because both K's mom and I have been putting it off partly out of shyness but mostly out of not wanting anyone to see our homes in their various states of disrepair/remodel. When I dropped K off Saturday morning, I admitted to her mom that I kind of panicked after I'd extended the invite because our house is a wreck. She said she was very relieved, because she's also self-conscious about the amount of lumber and debris lying around her house. AND! Since we'd never really met until then, she said it was nice to put a face to the name --the girls are in the same class, ride the same bus, go to scouts together, talk about each other all the time -- and she said, 'The Pretty Mom.' Sha! At least that's what my shocked ears caught as I stood there unshowered and sweatpanted in her yard. What a nice lady! Really I'd call myself Awkward Mom.

Anyway the girls had a really good time together, played nicely, and were well behaved.

Sunday the kids and I took the dogs on a hike up our hill and West-ish through the woods. We'd gone from no snow to 3 inches over night and the woods were beautiful. It was really pretty awesome. We hiked for about an hour and a half, and I'd even go so far as to say that our woods made for a better hike than the trail at Deep Creek. We've got creeks and ravines, magical clearings and monkey vines for swinging.

And Lily even made it through most of our trip without begging for a rest. At one point we watched her from her solitary lagging point. She was way behind and standing in a clearing talking to herself, poking at something with a stick. She wasn't really concerned that we were out of sight.

Then later she complained that she was getting stuck by all the 'jaguars.' (That's 'jaggerbooshes' in Pittsburghese.)

Sam laughed at me because I fell down more than he did, and he's pretty much famous for falling down. Copper, our kangaroo/dog, came charging from behind me, leapt (leaped?) over a huge fallen tree in single bound and landed right in the back of my knees. I landed on my bum with him balled up under my legs. Dog loves to jump.

Aggie took some very shaky video, but she did get clear footage of Sam on the vine that broke. He smashed to the ground and immediately asked 'Did you get me on video?!!'

We had cupcakes and ice cream for Aggie's big 1-0 last night and will have some more again tonight. Par-tay!

Let's get some festivity up in here.

last minute update: Turns out she has a fever. I sent her to school sick, but at least she isn't mental like her mother.
and don't let me forget to tell you about the guy who showed up right before closing today. Guy living in his van.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Week In Review

Slacking here.

Last Thursday: Lily tells me in the morning that she's been sick all night. She wears her best poker face as I mull her options: stay home or go to school. As soon as I say she probably ought to stay home, her face curls up into a Grinch-like smile. Score. When I picked her up from her grandmother's that evening, she wondered aloud at how lucky she was that she ended up being perfectly fine all day and technically could've gone to school. It boggled her mind.

Friday: Half-day of school & Valentine's Day parties. Lily sheepishly mentioned Thursday that this would be her last class party of the year. And that I could come if I wanted. Crank up the Mom Guilt. I'd strongly considered going, but forgot about it & didn't plan ahead for it. So Friday morning I sent Mark a message that he could go to the party if he wanted. It's a little easier for him to go anyway since it's sort of his off season and he's usually home. I also told him how pitiful Lily was when she mentioned it to me. So he ended up surprising her by showing up for the party. He said he really enjoyed himself, too. Mark also said that Lily is by far the prettiest & most robust looking child in her class. Gee, Daddy, biased much? Of course he's absolutely right though. Ha! He said, "You know how (beautiful) our coon dog looks compared to other coon dogs? That's how Lily is compared to the other kids in her class." And he was completely serious when he said that.

Saturday: Fiesta at the local Mexican restaurante in celebration of my Mom and Al's Sunday morning departure to Jamaica to get married. We're all happy for them. They're good kids.

Sunday: Mark takes his 'girlfriend' Sarah to church in downtown Pittsburgh and out to lunch at the same restaurante we'd dined at the night before. He's taken her to doctor's appointments for the past couple years because she's legally blind and can't drive. I'm not sure how necessary all the doctors appointments really are. I think it's more a chance to get out of the house and take Mark out to lunch. She has commandeered him for the last couple of Valentine's Days. Hmmmm.
I stayed home and did our income taxes= cranky.

Monday: Glory be and hallelujah: I've got the day off. The kids have another half day so we plan to find some family activity to do when they get home.Out of total desperation because I'm jonesing badly for a ride, I saddle Nikki for a morning ride in 30 degree weather. Rapture. And sore! We did a fair amount of trotting, attempted some cantering (translate:bucking with a smattering of true cantering) and a short gallop. First gallop I've purposely had with her, come to think of it. Fun!
As for our family outing, we could only muster enough energy to take the kids out for a late lunch. In the restrooms were kid-friendly stools so little ones can reach the sinks to wash their hands. Upon returning from a trip to the restroom, Sam said that he 'found a huge stool in the restroom.' I had to do a double-take when he said it, because I thought he knew the other meaning for 'stool' and that he was making a joke. When I told him the other meaning he nearly fell on the floor laughing. And more 'stool' jokes ensued.

Tuesday: Back to work and Day One of the bathroom remodel. We've been anticipating and dreading this day. Anticipating because it means the end of the blue sink & tub, plywood walls covered in more frickin' blue wallpaper, gah! I could so go on & on about it. That's not even the half of it. Dreading because everyone has to share my bathroom in the cellar during construction. So it's like camping out. Especially now that all the displaced spiders from the other bathroom have taken up residence in my bathroom. Mark says he feels like he's trespassing. I gave the girls a tutorial on not touching stuff. So far so good.

At work, a study in contrasts. Mr. Morris is a gentlemen in his eighties. You may have seen him and his bride out and about in their immaculate 1966 Chevy pickup. They made an adorable picture. Not too long ago, Mrs. Morris became ill and had to be moved to a nursing home. Her husband visits her twice a day. One icy day when the roads were terrible, Mr. Morris got a call that his wife had dropped her teeth and broke them, so of course he set out to fetch her teeth to get them repaired. Unfortunately, he wrecked his truck en route. His beautiful romantic truck. The one his beloved helped clean and wax. He couldn't bring himself to tell her that it's gone.
When he stopped in the office Tuesday, he reminisced about his days with Mrs. Morris. He said they never cheated on each other. Only wanted to be with one another. He said he took care of her at home for as long as he could. Said she was simply a wonderful woman. They've been married over sixty years. Even received a citation from one of our esteemed senators for it. I love hearing these stories. I hang on every sappy, sweet word. And usually their stories end with them rushing out the door in tears.

In sharp contrast, we have Carl. Great big, greasy, noisy Carl. Again with the customers asking to use our non-public restroom. He's doing the pee-pee dance, and I relent. But not before he 'crop dusts' the whole office with a dense and reeking series of farts. Then I'm pretty sure he peed with the door open, failed to hit the toilet, didn't wash his hands (of course,) and then parades back through the office with the flesh of his suitcase-sized gut hanging out the bottom of his sweatshirt. He departed with a pleasant 'I don't have time to mess around with you people.' No sweat, Carl. I have to go bleach the entire bathroom anyway.

Wednesday: New hole in the wall of the bathroom. It's supposed to be there. Book reading marathon with Lily. Mark is sick. God help me, Mark is sick.

Thursday: Mark wakes Sam up early because the horses are out of the fence. Sam must've forgotten to latch the gate last night and the wind blew it open. I walked outside in my bathrobe when I heard the news and came face to face with a very guilty-looking Admiral. They both knew damn well they were bad, but fortunately went back in the fence immediately. Not before they'd gotten into a bag of steer feed in the barn, of course. Hopefully they won't be sick from it. Hopefully Sam is more careful about latching the gate; he usually does really well.

The contractor isn't coming back until Monday, so the bathroom sits in a state of dusty crusty stasis. Nooo! Hopefully his promises of doubled effort and speed will pan out next week.
And Mark is still sick. God help me, Mark is still sick. Double hot toddies all around, starting with me.
(I'm joking, Daddy! Get well soon, of course!)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Speaking of the voice of God. Good Heavens.

The Old Man and I headed out to the woods behind the house tonight to take the coon dog out for a spin. The season's coming to an end and the temperature is still well above freezing so we figured we'd take our chances with the little bit of rain falling. I was kind of excited because I haven't been able to go with him in a long time. Years. And I also figured it would serve as a substitute for an uninspired trip on the elliptical machine.

So we geared up, gave the children their instructions:don't be jerks to one another and don't answer the door. Is that sufficient?

In reality, they received so many stupidly obvious instructions that I'm sure they tuned us out anyway. Baby steps.

Then we loaded the dog up in the old Ford and headed to the top of the hill. Plan was to park at the top, walk our way home, and go retrieve the truck later. Jill barked her head off the whole way there. The most jubilant bark ever, I wished I could have translated it into English.

And then, as the bumper sticker says, "When the tailgate drops, the bull$#*t stops," and as soon as we put her on the ground, Jill was all business. (Isn't that an awful bumper sticker? Gah!)

I hadn't seen her hunt yet, and (what do I know, but) I was impressed. She quit the happy barking and went silently to work.

We humped up the service road in the mud and rain, Jill's nose went up in the air, and Mark turned her loose. Unfortunately the rain was just as determined as Jill. It picked up a bit more, and Jill picked up a trail. She went nuts barking-such a great bark-and all hell broke loose in the trees all around us. The wind was tearing through the trees and LOUD! It was so incredibly loud that I wasn't even sure what I was hearing. Roaring is an understatement.

Jill was on a roll, but I think it's safe to say Mark & I were both equally terrified so we decided to abort the mission and get the heck out of Dodge.

We ran in the dark back to the truck, me with the rifle, Mark with the dog. I just wanted to get as far away from trees as possible. I had visions of me getting smashed by a giant cherry tree. Mark & Jill were ahead of me and I was keeping up pretty well at first, but I started to trail behind as the wind whipped sleet in my face and nearly knocked me off my feet. I could see Mark's light bobbing in front of me, and then. It stopped. On the ground. In the mud. He totally wiped out. Tripped over the dog. That man has fallen down more in the last 2 months than I care to mention. In fact, I would've been more surprised if he hadn't fallen. But he was fine and we hurried into the trusty Ford, forgoing Jill's kennel in the bed of the truck. She rode on the seat in between us.

So that was our big adventure! I wish we could've stayed out longer; instead we returned soaking wet, muddy (especially Mark,) and raccoonless, but I loved it! Scary! Fun!

Do it Yerself

Lily vomited on the school bus Monday.

I only found out later from Lily, not from the school. I asked her if she threw up a lot, and she said kind of. I asked her what happened next and she said she cleaned it up. With what, I asked. And she said the bus driver gave her some tissues. Lily also said that she tried to tell Kaylie to get away from her before she got puked on, but she couldn't speak. Lucky for Kaylie, Lily aimed away from her.
Anyway, Lily cleaned up her own puke on the bus, and I thought that was weird, because no one from school told me about it. But mostly I'm proud of her. Because she's not a big complainer when she's sick. She's very stoic and just a little bit sweeter than usual. And because how hard would it be to clean up vomit with tissues?

The moon has been full but Mark & Sam took Jill out in the woods anyway. They were hoping for enough cloud cover, but it was as bright as midday, they said. The weather has warmed enough to take her out without the worry of 'burning her nose out" or something? So, no coon, just some exercise and a couple photos of her treeing the coons that got away.
I have lain awake the last 2 nights after the rest of the house is asleep. Both nights I've had the rumble of the local train keeping me company. I've dubbed it The Midnight Train though I don't think it's on that exact schedule. The train runs through our little hamlet and on down past Mark's grandparents' house. It sneaks along behind the scenes, through underground tunnels and over old wooden and stone trestles. For some reason it excites me. The sonorous low rolling that you feel more than hear. A mile or more away and it still vibrates in my chest. And that slow motion whistle. The whole thing just has some otherworldly feel to it. Especially in the middle of the night.They say ('They say'-I really wanted to say that. ha!) that God's voice is the sound of a multitude of voices (which I love to think about when I'm in a huge crowd of people,) of pealing thunder (I've always loved storms,) and many waters like the rolling of the ocean (a perfect lullabye.) And I think if trains had been invented back when the book of Revelation was written, they'd have said that it also sounds like the midnight train to Cross Creek.

At work today:
Me on the phone: Do you have the serial number for your mobile home?
Heavy Smoker Lady: Wha? I, uh, wa...I don't know what you mean? What do you mean? Serial number? I don't know what you mean.
Me: Well, like the VIN, vehicle identification number.
HSL: Ugh, wha, well, I don't know, I've got the serial number.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Funny Valentine

I wrote my husband a love letter the other day.

Or maybe more like an obsessed fan letter. Like 'Dear Glorious Man, You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. Love, Psycho.'

We'd had a discussion the night before, subject unimportant, that didn't devolve into an argument, but still wasn't quite resolved in my brain. There is some sharp, Dorito-like chip of it still stuck in my craw. Like a record skipping & skipping & skipping.

He says I talk in riddles when we argue or discuss. I say they're analogies.

At any rate, I say I'm usually the Peacemaker. The Ender of Awkwardness. The Breaker of Silences. Not getting along is hugely inconvenient for me. It's like walking around with a dead monkey tethered to your leg, and everyone knows I don't even like living monkeys. (That was an analogy joke. Ha?)

I didn't used to be that way. I could hold out with the best of them. I know how to be the Wounded Party. And boy, could I hold a grudge. I kind of like not speaking for days at a time.

But I've decided that I'm too old, life is too short, and if I'm going to expend that much extra emotional energy, I'm going to try to be positive. Instead of being a mean & spiteful bitch (and I've got natural abilities,) I try to be calm & gentle. Not only trying to not say mean things, but saying nice things. Give a hug when I'd rather strangle. Keep my mouth shut when I feel like spitting nails. Write a love letter when I'm feeling maybe not so appreciated. It's surprising how quickly my ire is neutralized.

Along the same lines of doing stuff I don't always feel like doing but end up glad I did:

-Listening to Lily read the same really, really long story for her homework assignment. Including the parts where she keeps flipping back a page to show me something. Something we just saw when she read it a second ago. When I really need to do the dishes and the laundry, clean up the stacks of paper & mail, clean the mystery sticky stuff from the floor. When I'm so overloaded with human contact from being at work all day and I just want to crawl in a hole. I know my days of her reading to me are numbered.

-Playing video games with Sam. I'm no good at video games. And somehow I always accidently hit the pause button on the Wii-mote and mess up the game, but he still asks me to play.

-Lingering hugs with Aggie. Really, really lingering. Like you wonder if she fell asleep. Not that I don't love her hugs, but it seems like she wants them most when I'm scurrying through the kitchen from one chore to the next with ten things on my mind. The thing is, I think part of the lingering is because she doesn't want to be the first to end the embrace just in case you're not ready to let go; she doesn't want to hurt your feelings.

-Watching 'Cops' with Mark. OK, there's very little satisfaction from that.

Monday, February 2, 2009


We were invited to a party at the neighbors' yesterday to watch the game. It's a really fun group of people. We all have kids of varying ages. Our homes are all within walking, riding, or golf-carting distance through the woods. The men are inclined to get in to ridiculous adventures together and we womenfolk are inclined to go get ice cream at the drop of a hat, even if we've just eaten a big meal (not for the faint of heart.) We camp together without the benefit of privacy or plumbing. And we laugh a lot. This was our first invite to The Super Bowl Party, so the pressure was on. (I'm kidding, of course.) But Mark did obligate me to make a minimum of 2 black raspberry pies. He tried for 3, but I agreed to 2 berry and a pumpkin. The 4th pumpkin pie went to another neighbor (big fan of my pumpkin pie.) The trouble with berry pies for me is that you can't tell how they turned out until you cut into it to taste them, so I was driving Mark crazy by repeatedly talking to myself about 'I hope it's not too sour' 'I hope it's not too sugary''I hope the crust isn't soggy.' End of story: I made some mighty fine pies. And we had a blast at the party to boot.
Other than pie baking, our pre-game preparations included Saturday: 'harvesting' the other beef. (Thanks for the term, GreenRanchingMom!) Bummer, too, because I didn't get to sleep in. I also found an old fermented apple under the passenger seat of my car. I had really lucked out because the inside of the apple was nearly liquefied but the skin was pretty well intact. Except for where my finger poked through when I grabbed it. Yum! Sunday AM Mark 'harvested' a sausage hog. We've already got regular cut pork, so this one will be for whole hog sausage. I made my pies and shepherded the children to the shower before we were to leave. I was helping Aggie blow dry her incredibly thick and abundant hair when I came upon a scary rat's nest of tangles. I'm like 'Aggie--how long has this been here?' because it was more intense than her normal tangles. She said that she'd tried to get it out, but she just hadn't had the time. (?) Now I know she's been showering, and I'd be willing to bet she was shampooing and conditioning properly because I have repeated those instructions ad nauseum. And the tangle was hidden up underneath most of her hair so I'm not beating myself up too badly for missing it. I proceeded as gently as I could to brush and de-tangle the mess. Not too bad. I got it under control. Moving on to the other side of her head and what did I find? Good golly, a frickin dreadlock! A little blonde dreadlock. She was turning hippy on me right under my nose. And the only solution I could see was to cut it out. So she now has a Reverse Rat Tail. I gotta say, I'm kinda embarrassed about dropping the ball on that one. So after that rat issue, we were headed out the door on our way to the neighbors' when bam! another rat issue. Muskrat. In the pond. Tunneling in the breastworks. Totally unacceptable. So there was the scramble of Mark trying to find the right rifle, the right bullets, and shooting off several rounds at the muskrat in the pond. And I'm hoping that's the end of our rat issues for a while.

You can see the water spraying up as he shot. Oh, the weather did warm up a bit, so I coined up some carrots for the horses, gave them their treats and well-placed scratches: Nikki's ears & Admiral's butt. The turkeys came out for their own treats in the horse manure.
And this:
Is where Mark's brother lives. That Winnebago covered in silver tarps, surrounded by plywood & propane tanks. Talkin' 'bought brother Greg. He prefers to be called Cecil. Greg's 'not all there' according to his IQ and according to his behavior. For as long as I've know him, he's either been living with part of the family or out on his own because he's made himself unbearable to the family. He's lived with Mark's other brother & his wife. They gave him his own room and it looked like someone just dumped a mattress and some garbage in there once he was done with it. He used to live with his mother where he worked on the dairy farm they managed. He loves barns & animals & being filthy so it was a shame when he became inevitably belligerent and she kicked him out. Mark's grandmother let him stay at her house, but she vacuums daily and he cannot use a toilet without serious incident. That was doomed from the beginning. He moved out of state to work for his other set of grandparents. They gave him work, took him to church, and watched over him, but eventually he decided to move out on his own again & called a few months later crying to Mark that he was afraid he was addicted to crack. We're not sure whether he ever even smoked crack, but we do know that he wanted to come home to PA. It had been breaking Mark's heart all those years see Greg continually fail to improve his situation, so a year or so later, after Mark visited him in his umpteenth cruddy, toilet-paperless apartment, he finally asked him to come live with us. Now I was in no way thrilled with this prospect, but I also knew how it upset Mark so I agreed. We cleared out a space in the basement-the most ideal place for Greg: semi-private but where we could keep an eye on things. He was pretty excited at the time. We let him fix it up to his liking. He painted & put down new carpet. He helped Mark around the farm & we settled into a routine. Sort of. The second goal of having Greg with us, besides trying to end the cycle of eviction, was to have him properly diagnosed and cared for by a doctor. His moods were erratic. He'd cuss you as soon as look at you. His hygiene was maddening. But when he wanted to, he could do a job really well. And if he was making a paycheck at McDonalds or Wendys or whatever, he could calculate to the penny what his net pay would be after taxes. He was half as big as a house, trudged around in bare feet on his pant legs, and would lie wallowing in the dust like a hog--literally. Or he could be polite, thoughtful, and carry on an intelligent conversation with you.
So Mark embarked upon a long journey of doctors visits, testing, and paperwork. I was helping with documenting and Social Security.
No matter where Greg stays it always starts out on a good foot. He's helpful and appreciative and happy. But eventually it all starts to get to him, and he starts to get to you. He was so cruddy that Mark finally forbade him from getting into the refrigerator. The purpose was two-fold: keeping things clean/uncontaminated, and helping Greg control his portions since he was way over-weight. He was cool with that at first. Good homecooked meals at your service. He wanted to lose weight. Then Mark had to tell Greg to get a shower when he wouldn't take the initiative. We'd already discovered his trick of going into the bathroom and hanging out like he was showering but never actually showering. Mark threatened to shower with him. Then Greg decided that he wanted to start raising rabbits to show at the fair. So Mark let him set up some hutches in the barn to raise rabbits and he got rabbits. Boy, did we have a buttload of rabbits when Greg left. The appointments with the doctors were giving us some direction and Greg finally qualified for Social Security disability, and Mark was relieved, but the tension was mounting and a blowup was only a matter of time. I was at work, 11 miles straight down the road from home when I saw Greg walking by. He had run away from our house after a fight with Mark. Or rather, after Greg stood on the side of the road screaming profanities at Mark in front of our neighbors. Long story somewhat short, we eventually got him into an independent living type home, where everything was paid for. It was a really nice place, close to everything, and as Mark told him 'all you have to do is breathe here-you don't have to work, don't have to worry about bills,etc. Just behave.' but he only lasted a few months there too. Those people are used to dealing with difficult people and Greg still managed to piss them off. It was probably a year or more of Greg not speaking to us at all. So he's bounced around a half dozen places since then to arrive at his present home: the junky Winnebago parked on the railroad tracks behind Mark's aunt's (another story altogether) where he's currently happy as a hog in $#*t. We'll see how long it takes before he gets pissed off at the aunt who's keeping him fed and letting him squat in her back yard. Yay Family!!