Monday, August 31, 2015

Hello, MT!

Last weekend we took a road trip.  We went to Western Montana!  Missoula, MT specifically.  We were going to a college football game.  I have been to Montana many times but I have never been to Missoula and I have also never been to the mountains of Montana in the summer, at least not in my post elementary school memory.  So, even though I am 34 weeks pregnant and some people might be horrified at the idea of travelling, I went ahead and travelled although I was nervous.  I wasn't worried about going into labor early (yeah right!) but I was worried about being uncomfortable in the vehicle on the long drive and having to make everyone else stop for bathroom breaks every 45 minutes.  I've had more enjoyable road trips but it was OK. 

If you have watched the national news lately, you have seen that there are now wildfires burning in the United States and not just Canada like earlier this summer.  Some were burning in northern Montana and many are burning in Idaho.  Looking at the atlas, I realized just how close Missoula is to Idaho. The smoke is in North Dakota and got thicker as we entered Montana and drove west.  By the time we approached the Rocky Mountains we couldn't even see the mountains.  So we didn't see any mountains.  The smoke was very thick in Missoula and you could smell burning in the air.  This is what Missoula looks like: 

Where you see that "M" on the side of the hill is right above the University.  We could see that hill but that's about it.  I'm not exactly sure how close the fires were but I don't think I have ever been that close.  It made the smoke plume from earlier this summer look like nothing.  It would be terrifying to be in the path of that. 

Missoula was a fun city with a vibrant downtown area.  We were looking for a place to eat the evening we arrived and saw the corner of this banner inviting us into the foyer of this place so we had to patronize. 

This is the point in pregnancy where I cringe to see photos of myself.  If it's not the wideness and ill fitting clothes it is the puffy face and expanding chin area as exhibited below.

The day of the game was my first time wearing my loathed maternity jeans that don't stay up.  It's been too hot so I have not worn any full length pants yet but I just couldn't bring myself to wear yoga pants to the game.  I regretted the decision as soon as I walked to the car from the hotel room and had to hold the pants up as I walked.  Oh, I can't wait to wear zippers and buttons again. 

There were quite a few fans at this game.  Usually visiting fans don't get a parking lot to tailgate in.  They just get a tent next to the home tailgating area. 

Of course, the toilet situation was lacking and there were only three portas for the whole lot.  Fortunately, some enterprising and desperate beer swiller figured out how to get into the nearby campus building by hitting the handicap door opener which opened the door even though they were locked.  Hehehe.  What followed was a parade of hundreds of people coming in and out of that building to use the bathroom.  I'm sure the custodians are baffled today to find empty toilet paper rolls and full garbage cans in the bathroom they left clean on Friday. 

Walking through a campus, even while holding up my pants, is always a thrill for me and makes me nostalgic even if it not where I went to school.  The mix of old and new buildings, landscaping and green lawns are so beautiful.  We passed this building, and some people used the bathroom in it, and I was intrigued by the little pine trees on it.  It is the forestry building and probably one of the oldest buildings on the campus if the original wavy glassed windows are any indication. 

I wish I had gone into use the bathroom too!

Little trees!
The game was OK but we lost...we lost when Montana earned a touchdown with two seconds left on the clock.  It was pretty awkward because the night before all the Montana fans we met around town said that we would probably win because they weren't that good.  Eeeehhhh...During the game the smoke got really thick and we could even see little pieces of ash falling.  Yikes. 
Meanwhile back at home the kids were enjoying the weekend with their grandparents.  Justin's mom took Ben to his first movie on Friday!

They went to an afternoon matinee and since school started last week afternoons at animated movies are destined to be slower but they ended up being the only ones in the theater!  They saw Minions and Ben was a good boy and stayed quiet and in his seat the whole movie.  He's such a big boy. 

Here is Ben and Miss Fuzzy Head in their game day clothes.  So cute. 

OK, I have to go on Pinterest and look at skinny people wearing cute outfits to motivate me to face the next six weeks of whale-dom that lay before me. 

Slightly tucked t-shirt into high waisted mini skirt. Statement necklace and sunglasses as accessories.

CAbi Spring '15 Malibu Flare & your favorite tee.

Never mind...that's NOT HELPING!

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Garden: The Good, the Bad and the Scary

We were gone all weekend since Thursday so I knew the garden would be out of control when I visited this morning.  I knew there would be an excess of tomatoes and probably zucchini and who knows what else.  The most fabulous pick so far this year is this red pepper. 

This thing was huge.  I say it is now diced into little pieces in some Texas caviar.  It was much bigger than ones from stores.  You can get an idea from that stem!  It was almost hard to cut it because I was so proud of it!  Through the years bell peppers have not ben the most successful crop of ours and I was watching this one on the plant until it was perfectly ripe. 
The one cherry tomato plant is really producing.  They are more than I can eat.  I gave a bag to our neighbor last week and whenever we visit anyone they get a bag too.  This bag is all from today:
Remember, I am the only one in the house that eats these.  In a few weeks I will be ready for the frost to come and end the tomato season although hopefully it will be more than a few weeks before that happens!  The kids want to play with them, especially Tessa, because they look like balls of course but they don't eat them.  I'm not worried about that.  They are kind of hard for little kids to eat because of their skins. 
We have four tomato plants total, and I already shared disappointing results from the large yellow plant.  There is also a plant that produces large and red "beefsteak" tomatoes.  When I left on Wednesday they were all green.  Now they are all red and to say they look unappetizing would be an understatement:

I don't know what is happening here.  Clearly there is some sort of disease but also I don't know what is causing the strange shapes and that one is multicolored.  In addition, I discovered the whole plant was uprooted and half tipped over in its cage because yesterday there were really intense winds.  The wind has been very hard on the garden this year.  There have been a few windstorms this year unlike any from past summers.  I tried to put it back in the ground but who knows if it will work!  Tomato plants get really tall and heavy this time of year!

In other news, Ben starts preschool next Wednesday.  You will see pictures and hear more about that when it happens but this morning was the orientation so we went to meet the teacher and see the classroom.  Ben played with his new classmates and we submitted paperwork.  Tessa was quite interested in preschool too and neither of them wanted to leave.  Too bad she will have to wait amost a whole year after her third birthday before she can start.

 Of course, Ben had a minor head injury like he does 50% of the time so I felt bad.  Last night he fell of a kitchen stool and hit a chair on the way down and instantly formed a huge purple bump on his forehead.  We applied ice and fortunately by this morning it was not very noticeable.  I don't know how because it was huge and discolored last night.  That kid is crazy.  It's not a matter of if he ends up with stitches but when. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Earth Has Yielded it's Produce

We've been doing a lot of farming this month, so once again this post is about farming and harvest.  Here is Ben in Justin's bean field on July 31.

Here he is in the same field this weekend!

When I saw this picture I said, "don't lose him!" Those are pretty tall.  I always remember wheat being the tall crop but actually soy beans are taller. 
For example, here are the kids this weekend in a wheat field where combining was in progress.  Golden wheat makes a lovely setting for photos...if the people in the photos want to be in the wheat.  I had some big ideas for these pictures.  I imagined these would be lovely, with the golden wheat and the golden blond hair perfectly complementing each other. 
However, the blinding sun and very scratchy wheat did not make agreeable kids.  Tessa's raised arms mean "get me out of here!"  Also, it was 100 degrees outside. 

Oh well, this is real life. 
It was recently my brother's and sister's kids' birthdays.  They were born three days apart in August so we celebrated their birthdays this weekend.  We tried to get some good group pictures of the cousins together but with three one year olds involved we just did our best. 
There was a tractor driving back there!  That furry mass in the corner is the dog. 

This one's pretty good!
The bounty of harvest has come to our garden also.  The tomatoes in this bowl were all picked this morning. 

Time to eat some salads and omelets! 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Summertime Blues

I think everyone knows the song "Summertime Blues".  I first heard it coming from the radio in Alan Jackson's appealing country voice in the 90's and it has been used in many soundtracks and commercials and covered so many times.  I just researched it and learned that the original version was recorded by Eddie Cochran in 1958, which means that my grandparents heard it coming out of their radios while they tended to my parents as infants that summer.  I wonder if, as my grandmothers were bleaching cloth diapers and washing dish after dish by hand, they listened to the lyrics and thought, as I do now, "Oh, I feel sooooo bad for this guy...his girlfriend had to wait for their date until his shift at work ended!  And then he had to listen to a lecture from his dad before he gets to have fun! Must be soooo hard!"

My version at the moment would entail raising a fuss and a holler about spending all summer trying to stop my daughter from dumping bubble solution and a box of 50 pieces of sidewalk chalk all over the driveway every day, only getting to enjoy my patio set in 30 second increments while my kids try to dig holes in my plants and throw dirt and rocks everywhere, having to pee really bad at the park but not being able to go because all they have is an outhouse and myself and two kids don't fit in there, and counting down how many more times I will have to wear my maternity swimming suit in public.  Oh, and really craving beer and not getting to have any.  I tried to make it rhyme but my brain is too slow.  Sorry. 

This week is forecast to be the hottest of the summer so far, and today is the hottest day of the week.  I used to love days like these, just as I loved many days that epitomize each season.  This was probably because my life in general resembled a beer commercial, with summer bringing late night bar hopping on foot in the balmy heat, long days at the swimming pool (working, but still...I was in a swimming suit) and drinks on restaurant patios while various beer and liquor promoters made the rounds leaving everyone with obnoxious freebie gifts like beads, t-shirts and blinking lapel pins.  At least, even if I wasn't out living it up, I was able just sit outside with a book or magazine and feel the heat sometimes. 

In the spirit of honesty, and NOT complaining, because these statements can seem like complaining, I am going to acknowledge that summer with toddlers isn't that great.  And I love summer and hot weather.  With little kids, everything is just a big pain.  We all know that the old days our grandparents lived are gone, and I cannot do as my dad's mom did and send him out to roam around the farm under the supervision of his 4 year old brother.  And the women of past generations generally were surrounded by family members (between my grandmothers they had a total of ten sisters and probably as many sisters in law and cousins in close enough proximity that they probably socialized with another adult woman every day) so they had an easier time entertaining and managing kids.. 

Sure, since Tessa is sleeping right now, I could bring Ben out in the backyard, sit on a patio chair and read a book while he played.  After sitting for 20 seconds he would be pulling on my arm wanting me to get up and get something or see something.  Or he would be ignoring the water table or activity I just set up to play in the pile of dirt that washed out from the wall earlier this summer.  And soon he would figure out how to transfer water from the table to the pile to make mud and then he would make a huge damn mess.  I don't remember if I shared pictures on here but I let this happen once.  It was cute that one time, but it ended with a bath at 4 pm and mud handprints all over the glass door and footprints in the kitchen and I practically had to shovel out the bathtub after his bath.  So cleaning it up probably took as long as he was playing. 

Oh, look, he made a demo derby!  OK, now never do that again! 

So, back to the summer of toddlers...what options are there?  Any outdoor activity can just be exhausting.  The swimming pool is always fun, but it costs $3.00 per person over the age of 12 months so all three of us would cost $9.00 and you know how long the attention span for 1 and 3 year olds is.  That price is reasonable for a several hour session but for 45 minutes it is a lot.  Also, as a former lifeguard, I have seen how fast little kids can get into trouble in shallow water so I almost feel panicked with both of them and only me to watch.  I actually prefer going to my hometown pool when I am visiting because, even though it is dated and lacks the fun jungle gyms and features, it has a separate fenced wading pool that is free!  You only have to pay for the "big pool"!  Then there is the park, which is usually fun until I want to leave and then have to wrangle two screaming maniacs who don't want to leave across the lawn and to the parking lot.  And of course, you can't in good conscious let your kids outside without sunscreen and it's enough trouble to maintain my own sunscreen usage and I am a willing user.  Toddlers are NOT willing.  In NO WAY are they willing.  I have to threaten to take away the outdoor activity in order to get Ben to submit to wearing sunscreen.  Although, Tessa likes to wear her sun hat so that is nice. 

So anyway, I will probably be enjoying the hottest day of the summer indoors.  Yesterday was really hot and we went out in the back yard and I set up water related fun only to spend the short time we were out there trying to stop Ben from making a mud hole and stopping Tessa from stomping her feet in it.  I see pictures on social media of outdoor escapades every day and it's hard not to feel like you should be outside nonstop, enjoying summer since it is so short.  I read a blog post earlier this week from another mom, someone I don't know personally, who described a summer afternoon taking her 4 and 1 year old to a splash pad to meet up with friends.  All the kids started whining about being cold after two minutes and there was no shade and she ended up spending most of the outing chasing the younger child who was continuously trying to run away from the scene.  Yet, she would not admit that it was a bust and they probably should have just watched PBS or played in their own yard.  Nothing about it sounded fun but people feel like they can't admit that every activity with their kids isn't fun and in fact most of them are very tiresome.  They manage to get a good picture to share so it looks fun but everything that went on behind the scenes wasn't.  I reassure myself with visions of the future, when these kids are in elementary school and can swim without constant supervision, play outside alone without getting lost or destroying something and don't want my attention every minute of every day but for now summer is just an extension of every other season.  Maybe they will be in a sport and actually participate without running over to me constantly and trying to pull leaves off a tree instead of listening to the coaches (T-ball flashback!) and I can sit back and eat candy and watch in peace.  Maybe we will live in a neighborhood or town where kids still take off on bikes with their friends all day (although people are getting so paranoid that in a few years a parent who allows this will probably end up in jail) and they will even be old enough to mow the lawn and water the plants and wash our cars for us.  We just have to make it through these few years!

Speaking of sunscreen, I have discovered something this summer.  My children get tan.  WHAAAAT?  Ben is developing an obvious farmer's tan even though I apply sunscreen regularly.  It's like his tan can't be stopped!  And Tessa is the same.  After time in the sun they don't look red at all.  They just look bronze.  Everyone assumes that because I have red hair I must fry after minutes in the sun, which is not true.  It certainly will happen eventually but if I go outside for 30 minutes without sunblock on my legs they are as white as ever but if Ben and Tessa go outside for 30 minutes without sunscreen they look three shades darker.  They have it...the coveted blond haired, blue eyed combination with a naturally bronzed complexion.  They look like they could be in advertisements for bronzing powder and their hair is naturally highlighted in all the right places.  Lucky them...but if they ever want to go near a tanning bed the answer will still be NO!

Here is a cute picture to wrap this up...Tessa found her new fleece jacket for this winter and she wants to wear it all the time.  She is oblivious to the fact that it is 100 degrees outside and can't wear it.  She gets mad when she has to take it off. 

Soon enough we will all be so tired of zipping jackets that we will want to scream...maybe the sunscreen isn't so bad!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Combines and Puppies

Even when you live in the middle of a city, you know when wheat harvest has started.  It has its own atmosphere more than any of the other crops.  I remember lifeguarding at the station at the top of the water slide in Fargo and noticing the haze in the humid air and realizing I could smell it one night when it wasn't there before.  Out of town, it is a time of year that is full energy and the majestic sight of combines crawling along in the fields and hearing the wailing sound of their engines everywhere.  I recall visiting my great uncle in the nursing home about a month before he died several years ago during wheat harvest and he could hardly bear being trapped in his room as opposed to being in the fields. 

This year brought a new little harvest devotee named Ben, who was beside himself with excitement over "combine rides" at the farm.  We arrived late Wednesday night and he didn't see any action until Friday evening.  He had to be content with "helping" around Grandpa's shop. 

Having a 3 year old help by spraying a hose is rarely that helpful, but we won't tell the 3 year olds that!
Here he is when he finally made it to the field!

The first few rounds with my brother in the combine, Justin operating the grain cart, and my dad driving truck.
Tessa wanted in on the action too.  She finds tractor rides quite enjoyable.  I think most kids do, especially combine rides, because of the panoramic view and the hypnotic spinning of the header.  Here she is after spotting Grandpa up high on the combine. 

She really wanted to get up there!  Sorry Tessa, one year olds in pink dresses don't get to climb on top of farm machinery! 
On Saturday Ben combined all morning and afternoon with Uncle Pete until he fell asleep. 

There was some excitement on Saturday evening when our friend Andy visited with his puppy and another friend's puppy who he was babysitting for the weekend.  It was a puppy party! I haven't been around baby animals like this for awhile and forgot how extremely cute they are!

Tessa was kind of scared of them, which is strange because she shows no fear around very large full grown dogs that she knows. 

Seriously, how can anything be so cute?  Look at that puppy's adorable expression!

Kisses!  Ben isn't in any of the puppy pictures because, to my surprise, he just wanted to ride in the combine and not play with the dogs.  I can't imagine...

Monday, August 3, 2015

Go for the Gold

People from the "older generations" always lament about "kids these days" to the extent that doing so is pretty much a cliché.  I remember older ladies at church always having something to say about what kids wore, how we acted, and on and on and on at church when I was a teenager.  I remember thinking, "what should I wear then?  What you are wearing? Elastic waist polyester slacks and Aerosoles shoes?"  Once I heard a group of women ragging on the girls at the prom grand march the previous weekend because none of us wore nylons with our floor length dresses and strappy heels.  I think they were just jealous that we decided to liberate ourselves from those loathsome mesh garments as teenagers after they had been stuck with them their whole lives.

All young people are lazier, more spoiled, and flawed in ways the past generations were not, of course.  I think the same thing when I see teenagers spacing out on their phones everywhere they go even with their friends and forgoing real activities like sports and music in favor of video game time.  Don't they know what they're missing??  Oh, those millennials, the generation born since an undetermined point in the 1980's until now.  Some articles place the beginning with people born in 1980 which would include me and Justin (both born in 1983).  Compared to someone born in, say, 1995 or 2000 or 2005, however, I don't think we are at all the same.  Mostly because we have a significant number of years that we remember, including most of our childhood, without the instant gratification of the Internet. We had to watch commercials on TV and deal with rewinding VHS and cassette tapes and wait to use the family land line phone and miss out on plans with our friends because they tried to call but our moms were on the phone and the line was busy. No one cared about self esteem and in school the "good reading class" was clearly separated from the "slow reading class" and when it was time for the (dreaded, by me) Presidential Physical Fitness Test in phy ed the fit were clearly separated from the unfit by tests of speed and strength performed in front of the whole class.  Often, one phrase is used to describe this whole phenomenon, which is "everybody gets a trophy!".  This means that everyone is so worried about hurting kids' feelings (instant gratification!) that when there is any sort of competition everyone ends up with a participation ribbon or medal at the end and some sports for young children don't have scores or winners and losers. 

The reason I was thinking about that phrase at all is because this weekend my mom unearthed a little cardboard box containing my piano gold cups, which are the only trophies I ever won or earned in my youth. 

As soon as I opened the box I had a warm feeling come over me remembering the pride of earning the points to get these.  As you can see, there are three different sizes.  Every year, our piano teacher had her students compete at "Festival" which was like a recital with a judge that we didn't know.  It was held at a University and there were students of other teachers in the rooms so you often performed in front of strangers as well.  There was an event for solos, hymns, and duets.  You would play two songs for each event and the solos had to be memorized.  You could receive a score of 1-5 with 5 being the best and it took 15 points to earn a gold cup.  So earning one would take 3 years if you scored the best possible score.  I earned my first one for solos in 1994.  That big one I earned for solos in 2001, my senior year of high school.  I had a year in there where I had a score of 4 so the big cup took 4 years.  By high school the solos were pretty serious classical numbers so the memorizing was harder. The others are for hymns and duets which kids usually didn't start until they were older so there were fewer years to work with.  I think I scored 5s every time I did hymns because, in my opinion, playing the straightforward four part of a hymnal couldn't be any easier and the challenge was to not jazz it up a bit but duets could and often did end in chaos.  They required you to get together with your partner, usually a friend, outside of lesson time and practice and often the teacher wasn't there so you can imagine how productive that was. 
I had to think about if I earned any other trophies or special awards besides the pins for my letterman's jacket and I could remember two.  One was at basketball camp where I got a little gold basketball player trophy for being the most improved player in my age group when I was 13 (there were probably 75 girls in that group) and the other was when I was a sophomore in high school and I won second place out of a few hundred students at state FBLA in my testing event.  I believe it was called "Principals and Procedures" and it was the even that the advisors put most of their young freshman and sophomore students in.  First and second place winners got to go to the national convention so I got to go to Chicago that summer!  And...I think that's it.  My brother and sister both won Athlete of the Year when they were seniors and my brother was homecoming king and my sister was Salutatorian so they each had a few big trophies on their shelves.  Ok, enough of this, now I'm starting to feel pathetic! 
The point is that what I won was really earned and although it's all ancient history now and I went on to be an average college student (hey, I was on the Dean's list a few times!) and a mediocre law student I'm still proud of those accomplishments of my youth.  I didn't really study that much for the FBLA test because I didn't even consider winning a trip to nationals as an individual (most students won trips for group projects).  At that large basketball camp those coaches noticed something about me that week , whether it was real improvement or just enthusiasm to learn and a good attitude, that made them want me to get the most improved trophy.  And I worked on getting those piano cups for years, knowing it would take at least three years and maybe longer to just get one.  What I'm trying to say, I guess, is, I'm not a Millenial!  Don't you dare call me one because I was born in 1983 and not 1979!  I know how to call a stranger on the phone and have a civilized conversation to get what I need and I could go to a library to look something up if I had to.  I can wait thirty minutes for a meal in a restaurant without distracting myself with a video game. And as far as commercials, I think we can all agree that no one likes them, has ever liked them and they can go away for good! 
OK, I am off to set up our own little trophy case with the piano trophies, Justin's trophies from state darts and maybe the generic medal I received or being on a basketball team that went to the state tournament in 1999 even though I only played about three minutes in one of the games there.  Maybe I'll throw in the old Lutheran Sunday School perfect attendance pin with the attachable wreath and bars that I have stashed in a jewelry box. 
Yes, that's the one!  Disclaimer:  This is not my pin...I don't think I had that many bars.