Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I. Hate. Bugs. (it's that simple)

The flies are bad this year on the farm. 
They swarm on the horse all day long. 
The goats, too. 
Fly strips get covered up within an hour. 

We keep a fan rolling in the barn during the day. 
Flies don't like wind. 
The goats and horse often come to stand in front of this during the hottest part of the day. 

The chickens, I believe, are helping with fly control, though. 
A neighbor told me that her family's horse had a leg that became swollen from fly bites. 
That it looked like it's leg had a black sock on it, but it was just covered in flies. 
Gives me the heebie jeebies just to think of that!
So, I guess our bad fly situation could be worse than it is. 
I'll say it again...the chickens are helping. 
"How do chickens help with fly control" 
you ask?
Horse eats grass. 
Horse poops. 
Flies go right to poop. 
Lay eggs in poop. 
Chicken sees flies on poop. 
Runs to poop very quickly. 
Scratches through poop (remember, it's just grass y'all!). 
Chickens eat flies. 
Eat fly larva. 
Chicken fly control. 

But there's another much worse problem this year. 
Worse than those *dirty, poo on their feet, landing in my lunch as I eat on the pool deck, buzzing past my face* flies. 

God damn mosquitos!

I went out today to hose the horse down with the water hose. 
She gets hot and sweaty grazing in the pasture all day and enjoys a hose down. 
It's like washing a Mini Cooper really. 
But, oh my god!
I was attacked by Mosquitos the entire time. 
Biting my legs. 
My arms. 
My stomach through my shirt. 
My face and neck were attacked. 
It was the quickest Mini Cooper wash down ever. 
I ran for my life!
I ran to save my blood from larval poisoning and my skin from instant welts. 
I ran for the safety of the pool and jumped in. 
The mosquitos don't go to the pool. 
Why are there so many mosquitos?
We abide by the 3 laws of a mosquito-free environment. 

1.  No standing water
2.  No standing water 
3.  No standing water

We have a large water trough, but a frog and many fish live in it. 
They have one job. 
To eat mosquito larva in there. 
The mosquitos seem to be in higher concentrations near the barn. 
I'm wondering if the pond behind the house has water in it this year and that's the problem. 
Some years it's bone dry. 
Most years it's that way. 
I'm not going to go back there to find out, though. 
I may come crawling out of the woods with two less pints of blood. 
I can see how malaria is so hard to prevent in certain areas of the world. 
I worry that the bug world is going to take over the planet soon. 
And I'll be sequestered in my house until a deep freeze hits.
Last week I was in Chicago. 
And while I do enjoy the country life, I also enjoy the city. 
One of the biggest reasons being...no mosquitos. 
But like warm weather. 
Chad and I have wondered if there's a warm tropical location that we can live in that doesn't have bugs. 
Does the desert have mosquitos?
Could I get used to a dry heat?
So many questions. 
So many bug bites...

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Found Art Of Play

I'm a stay at home mom. 
I've been in my current position for a decade. 
We lived in Chicago when Zoe was born and child care expenses were out of our budget.  
It made sense for me to stay home.  
I think that my decision to stay home was, in a way, preparing me for what would happen to Zoe later on. 

Zoe got sick at age 5. 
She missed that crucial time where her imagination was really taking off. 
As her mother, I had worked hard at showcasing to her the interests of art. 
But, when she got sick, it all got put on hold. 
Instead of sitting in her room playing with stuffed animals, she was always sleeping.
She had just enough energy that first year to watch movies.  
And to draw. 
And as her parents, we didn't force her to do anything she didn't want to do. 
She was a whopping 37 pounds when she was 6 1/2 years old. 
The chemo sucked her life away at times. 
Being a sick child in a children's hospital didn't mean she was riding her IV pole down the hallway laughing as she went. 
She didn't paint her bald head. 
Her head was never completely bald. 
She wouldn't allow us to touch her hair. 
Whatever was left she wouldn't let us shave. 
Her hair was all she could control. 
She kept the straggly strands that wouldn't fall out. 
Her hair fell out and grew back three times. 
When her port was accessed she didn't like to move around too much. 
She certainly wouldn't hitch a ride on her IV pole anywhere. 
She would walk very slowly. 
With her shoulders hunched over. 
Looking like she was 95 years old. 
She was always afraid the needle would come out. 
Like it did once at home when she had a violent vomiting episode. 
Her life was filled with needles sticking out of her chest instead of playing. 

Her sister is currently at that age that Zoe missed. 
Gigi is 6 1/2 and almost 55 pounds. 
Gigi plays with her dolls.
With her stuffed animals. 
With her 2,216 My Little Pony figurines. 
She has a lot of figurines. 
Her imagination is out of control. 
Which is where it should be at this age. 

I understand that my girls are individuals. 
That they play differently. 
That they think with two entirely different melons. 
But kids do have days upon days of imaginary play between the ages of 5 and 7 
And now that Zoe isn't sick anymore, the imaginary play has emerged. 

Zoe is 10 1/2 now. 
She's wearing deodorant. 
And watching YouTube videos about cats singing and people tripping over sidewalks. 
Other girls her age seem to be interested in boys and who they are going to call next on their iPhone. 
But not Zoe. 
She's busy playing with her sister.
Catching up on lost time. 
Just two girls and their figurines. 
Locked in their room letting their imaginations explode. 
With mom always at home
I'm just in the other room...

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Komodo Dragon Dog

We recently went to the Memphis Zoo. 
We saw a sign saying "Dragons This Way". 
Boy, was Gigi disappointed when she got there. 
Instead of seeing a winged, iridescent scaled, fire breathing sepeant of the sky...she saw a big lizard. 
A Komodo Dragon. 
No fire. 
No wings. 
Nothing but three large gray lizards sitting motionless on three large rocks. 
But we did learn that Komodo Dragons have poisonous saliva so their bite is very dangerous. 
And they run really fast. 
Little did we know we would soon see a fire breathing dragon. 
At home. 

My dad always buys fireworks to shoot off at our house on the 4th of July. 
Nothing too big. 
Just enough to get some oohs and aahs out of the kids. 
And to scare the poop out of our dog Wilie. 
Willie spends the 4th in his dog crate with the radio on loudly in the room with the windows closed. 
Otherwise he runs away. 
And then there's Lola. 
She doesn't run away. 
She runs towards. 
Towards the fireworks. 
Towards the sparks that emit from the fuse before the fun begins. 
I don't know why she's so obsessed. 
Is she trying to kill it?
Does she get excited because we're excited?
I think it's for other reasons. 
I think she secretly wants to be a dragon. 
And this year, she did it. 

These are snakes. 

You light the tablet and within seconds it turns into a snakelike creature. 
Getting longer and creepier by the second. 
I have no idea what's in it to do this. 
It's just fun. 
So we burn them. 
And Lola couldn't stay away from them. 
So, as soon as one was lit, she attacked. 
The black tablet was on fire. 
No snake had emerged yet. 
It was a ball of fire. 
And Lola ate it. 
She became the fire breathing dragon Gigi has hoped to see!
Lola Dragon!
Nothing will kill this beast. 
She's eaten many odd things over the years.
She has a hole in her heart that should have killed her years ago. 
Our vet is astonished to see her every year. 
Yet she's still here. 
Eating fire. 
Our real life Komodo Dragon Dog. 
Coming soon to a zoo near you. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Past At Camp

It's happened again. 
Every summer I am left alone. 
For a week. 
All by myself. 
Well, until Chad pedals home from his long day at work where he's been watching YouTube videos with his boss and hiring some people for the Fall semester during the University's summer break. 
So, my week of solitude has begun. 
Because the girls are at summer camp. 

On the way to camp yesterday we were tallying up the years and this is Zoe's fifth year at camp. 
How is this possible?!
Well, let's see. 
She's ten now. 
She got cancer at age five. 
She's at cancer camp and you can go to cancer camp at age six (unless you're her sister, but I'll tell THAT story in a minute.)  
And yep. 
She's right. 
It's her fifth year at summer camp. 

Excuse me while I wipe my wet eyes. 
I'm fine now. 

As we dropped the girls off I saw our daughter's past standing in the line of kids to be checked in. 
A young girl who was quite obviously in the throes of her treatment. 
She was horribly thin. 
With very pale skin. 
She had dark eye circles that peered out from under her hat's bill that contained a head that no longer had hair. 
It was my daughter in 2011. 
And in 2012. 

Now Zoe looks normal. 
She has long hair. 
And a full face. 
Full of freckles and smiles. 
And the girls in her cabin are all healthy now. 
Their days of chemo and steroids and zero energy are far behind them. 
In a place that hides within their memories because now they want to be like everyone else their age. 

Zoe's sister Gigi goes to camp with her. 
Siblings of children with cancer are greatly affected by the traumas of cancer. 
You are required to be six years old to go to camp. 
But Gigi went last year. 
When she was five. 
Because...she's Gigi. 
Once you meet her you'll never forget her. 
And she's been going to her sister's oncologist visits since she was 22 months old. 
And she's the only kid at camp that gets chocolate milk. 
With every meal. 

I walked, really ran to keep up, with Zoe to her cabin. 
Helped her get her bed put together. 
Then walked across the camp to the cabin her sister was staying in. 
Gigi had taken dad with her to help her set up her bed in her cabin. 
Once Chad and I completed bed making duty, we switched cabins. 
He walked to Zoe's cabin to tell her goodbye and she quickly gave him a hug and kiss then ran away to be with her friends. 
So he returned to Gigi's cabin. 
Where I was. 
He came in as I was telling Gigi's counselors about her custom-made ear plugs that she needs inserted before she can go swimming. 
She gets swimmers ear without them. 
And that the nurses had these expensive ear plugs with them. 
At cancer camp, there are lots of nurses and oncologists wearing t-shirts and shorts instead of ties and scrub tops. 

That's when I saw her. 
The little girl who was my daughter's past. 
She was in Gigi's cabin. 
Her bed was made up. 
Her stuffed animals were situated on her bed for the week. 
And her parents were trying their hardest to leave. 
But it wasn't happening.
I've been there. 
I've had to leave my daughter in someone else's hands for a week while she was on chemotherapy. 
It's about as hard as walking away from your child as she's being wheeled into surgery. 
Chad saw the girl's father wiping the tears away from his eyes before his sweet daughter could see them. 
Something that he himself has done. 
In that same cabin. 
And I think it's important for us to see that. 
To see the effects of cancer and chemo on a child. 
Our past. 
It's a reminder to us to chill out. 
To not take things and situations so seriously. 
To remember that life is sweet and that we can't take our children for granted. 

I'll know this girl's name when we pick up the kids up on Friday. 
Gigi will have, no doubt, befriended her right away and I'll hear all about the fabulous things they did this week. 
And Gigi won't hesitate to treat this new friend with love and respect.
Because she, and the other kids at camp, have seen and lived what she is experiencing right now. 
And they'll give her hope. 
And memories to sustain her through it all...

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Don't Forget To Dance

A funny thing happened along the way...
I hung out with girls twenty years my junior last weekend. 
And I survived. 
As I know my limits on booze. 
I know my limits on bedtimes. 
I know my limits on the dance floor...wait. 
I didn't know my dance limits. 
And my outer thighs are still feeling it. 

My mom's youngest brother is six years older than me. 
We grew up together and were quite close as he lived three blocks away from my brother and I with my grandparents. 
He has two daughters, with the first being born while I was still in high school. 
And he and his wife lived with grandma and grandpa with their new baby girl for a while. 
His second daughter (who I'll call KR) was born when I was at college. 
And the family didn't live at grandma and grandpa's house anymore. 
There's a big age gap with these girls and myself, but I love them bunches. 

Right before my daughter was diagnosed with leukemia, KR almost lost her life in a drunk driving accident. 
A drunk driver smashed into her car in the middle of the day. 
A head-on collision on a two lane highway. 
While she was talking to her mother, my aunt, on her cellphone. 
We are thankful that she's still here. 
And we all become closer as she fought to regain her life while her little cousin Zoe fought to keep hers. 

KR had to take a year off from college. 
To recover at home. 
To learn how to walk again with rods and pins in her body. 
And she switched colleges when she went back to her studies. 
And that's where she met him. 
Her future husband. 
And that's why I was at a bachelorette party this past weekend in St. Louis. 

I went with two other cousins who are my age. 
My mom has four other siblings. 
The cousins that I drove down to St. Louis with are my mom's other brother's daughters. 
And we are 43, 44, and 45 years old. 
We met my mom's younger sister, who flew in from Atlanta, at our hotel that was three blocks west of the mighty Mississippi River.
And we kept up just fine with the young girls during our weekend. 
Which comes, I guess, to the point of this post. 

You're never to old to have fun. 
And life can throw some killer curves at you. 
You never really know what's around the next corner. 
So do it. 
Shake your stuff on a dance floor. 
Drink some drinks and show the younger crowd how it's done. 
I wore heels out all weekend. 
My cousin, who's my age, said she was going to wear her comfy, sensible shoes out. 
"Oh no!" I said. 
"These feet of mine don't get to go out too often. 
So when they do venture out, the heels go on!"
Yes, I got a blister. 
But I had fun. 
I did some dance grinding with my younger cousins. 
Is that a thing?
Dance grinding?
I did something like that. 
I whooped out loud on the dance floor. 
I danced low, low, low. 
Maybe a little too low. 
Because every time I went to sit on the toilet, whoah!
The tops of my thighs were screaming at me...
"You went too low!"

You're never to old to have fun. 
To remember to dance. 
Go ahead and relive your younger days. 
At one point as we were dancing, I pushed through the crowd to the front of the stage (it was a dueling piano bar kind of place) urging my young cousins and their friends to join me.
It's what I would have done when I was in my twenties. 
I would have been front and center. 
Never dancing on the outer fringes. 

Don't forget to dance. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Drooling Pony

Our horse is drooling. 
Like Niagara Falls drooling. 
She's drooling on the gate. 
She's drooling on the goats. 
She whips her head around and anything in her way gets drooled on. 
Like my legs. 
And arms. 
She's creating lakes of slobber in the stall that I had initially thought were lakes of pee. 
And I said to her angrily a few days ago "Buttercup!  This has got to stop!  Go outside to pee!"
But it's not urine. 
It's drool. 
All caused from this...

Our pasture has a lot of clover in it this summer. 
And the clover has gotten a fungus. 
Some fancy name called rhizoctonia. 
Our pastures are ripe for this as we've had a lot of humidity and little rain at the beginning of the growing season. 

We noticed that Buttercup was licking a lot and drooling last month. 
So, like we always do, we looked in our Horses For Dummies book. 
Why aren't drooling horses in the dummy books?
I'm a dummy when it comes to horses and I need this kind of information. 
So, I turned to the internet. 
And found rather quickly the link between clover and drooling. 
So, we took her off the pasture and fed her in the stall. 
And she stopped drooling. 
And we learned there's nothing to do for a drooling clover pony. 
It will pass. 
And the clover fungus will die off. 

We put her back on the pasture a week later and she did fine. 
Until this week. 
When the overload of slobber started up again. 

She begins to lick obsessively. 
And the slobbering starts. 
And don't you dare pull her lip back. 
Because when you do...out gushes 42 gallons of viscous, grass tinged, sloppy, wet drool. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

These Days

I haven't written a post in a while that is simply a "what's been going on" post, so here it goes...

My kids got out of school last week. 
And we have three extra weeks added onto our summer in August because new schools are being built in our district. 
They don't go back until September 8th. 
As I write this, they are in the other room pretending they are in music class. 
And they are screech singing. 
And it's raining outside. 
Help me. 

We saw the movie Tomorrowland yesterday. 
Very good film with action, explosions, and a message worth thinking about. 
That we, people of this planet earth, need to cut the crap and fix what has happened to our home. 
A few days before that, Chad and I watched the movie Still Alice at home. 
Early Onset Alzheimer's. 
An amazing performance and a film that made us both hope that that won't become our future. 
Because it was so scary. 
Scarier than the message seen in Tomorrowland. 

Even with the kids being out of school already and three extra weeks of summer break, when I look at the calendar on the wall it's so full. 
And I didn't really sign the girls up for anything.
They have a 3 hour camp on Thursdays learning about Lewis and Clark.  
Swim lessons on Monday and Wednesday mornings. 
They have sleepaway camp in July for a week. 
We need to get to Memphis in June. 
We are going to Michigan for a week in August. 
Our friends from Vermont are coming for a few days in July. 
We have a family wedding in August that the girls are in. 
I'm exhausted already. 

But today, I have absolutely nothing to do. 

We had a sick chicken. 
Took her to the vet and she's all better. 
We had a goat with a bloody horn a few weeks before that. 
Took her to the vet and she's all better. 
Here's hoping everyone else in the barn stays healthy. 

Speaking of health, Zoe had a blood draw last week. 
She has horrible veins.
They are deep in her arms and they hide as soon as she enters the hospital. 
It did not go well for her. 
Our nurse friends had to call in Dan. 
I don't know Dan, but we all certainly put the pressure on him to get blood from the girl who doesn't like to give up her blood. 
Dan the phlebotomist. 
He got the job done, but not before suggesting taking it from the big vein in Zoe's hand and her yelling NO!
She had that done once and vowed to never let anyone touch her hand veins EVER again!
Her blood, her veins, her choice I say. 

She (and her sister) raided the toy closet before we left. 
People donate tons of stuff to children's hospitals. 
Sometimes it's the only way people know how to help sick kids. 
After the hospital visit we headed to lunch.
A new place for us. 
Obed and Issac's Microbrewery and Eatery. 
Such a long name. 
A restaurant in a big house right in downtown Springfield, Illinois.  
A block away from Abraham Lincoln's house. 
We had great service and great food and will definitely eat there again. 
Since Abe's house was right across the street, we headed over for tickets to see inside. 
The girls have been inside twice before, but between their young ages and Zoe's chemo brain, they both couldn't remember taking the tour.  
Abraham Lincoln's home and neighborhood are the only National Park within the state of Illinois. 
It's free to get in, but you need a timed ticket and can only get in while on a tour given by a National Park Park Ranger. 
They even wear those cool wide-brimmed hats you see Rangers wearing at Yellowstone and those other parks with lots of trees and wolves and giant waterfalls. 
Each time my kids go into this house, even the times they don't remember, they giggle about the chamber pots under the beds.