Annaliese accompanied me to the chicken yard this afternoon. She was telling me about sharks. Her class is talking about them.
I have thoughts about this.. why? I have done my best to keep my shark-phobia to myself, and now they're going to teach her fear at school? Arg! Annaliese saw a picture of that girl who lost her arm surfing and she was telling me about it as I gave the chickens scraps and fresh water.
"It was gross, Mama," she said.
"Not her fault she lost an arm, kiddo," said I.
"It gave me chicken bumps. NO.... turkey bumps. It gave me turkey bumps."
Sharks give me turkey bumps too. But unlike her school, I'm gonna keep it to myself.
K has taken over the more frequent documentation of daily life, but I've missed checking in too.
In my family, houses have names, and so for the first year-plus we lived here, it really bothered me that I didn't have one. We thought of a lot of options... K was pushing hard for Turtle Hill, as I remember... but this place we have landed is not at all grand. It's a 1940s bungalow with an awkward 80s addition that we've cloathed in cedar and cypress that will take a good five years to mellow to the gray we want as opposed to the orange it came. It's a Mississippi hill farm. It's hard to find a good name for a place that doesn't sound... overly inflated, shall we say?
I read the kids Pippi Longstocking and the description of the horse on the porch and the nonsensical air of the place reminded me of home. You're fairly likely to find a barnyard animal on the porch here. It's a place of whimsy, butterflies, big old trees and goats, and so I christened it Villa Villekula.
(I can't tell you how relaxing it is to have the name in my head.)
I have many plans awaiting our home but sadly, a complete lack of skill to execute them, so I am focusing on the garden and the rose bushes and the things that I am capable of impacting.
But what K has made already is pretty spectacular. The plan this year is I get Wednesdays off every week, barring emergencies, and both the children are in school now, which means I get to spend some time appreciating this corner of the world we are calling home. It's a beautiful one.
Feeling very lucky these days.
Can you tell?
This boy... five now, riding the bus with his sister to kindergarten. Handsome and smart and loving and... everything.
He's the one who really loves life at the farm. I found him underneath the azalea bushes the other day, crooning to our dog Olive, singing her to sleep while making a neat pile of mudballs.
More soon. Have to go meet the bus. But I want to get back to this.
I've been wearing a little charm necklace lately that has three peas in a pod on it. Annaliese was sitting in my lap on the downstairs porch the other day... we were snacking and watching the sun set-- and she held my charm between her fingers and pointed.
"This one is Daddy, this one is me, and this one is Caspian," she said. "And you are the shell that keeps us all together."
Don't want to forget that one.
We had the book signing, and the book is out and about into the world, and as much as I want it to become an international best seller with script options (because that happens to all cookbooks, right?), the part I also really want to hang onto is how many people showed up to the local bookstore and bought books. Not strangers. There were maybe ten strangers. Instead they were customers and neighbors and friends and my mother and my sister's godmother and almost everybody bought multiple copies. The bookstore staff were astounded.
Not to mention we've sold books like they were the newest apple toy in-store like they were going out of style. All to people we know. I've gotten emails and hugs and phone calls telling me how wonderfully I write and how proud they are of me, the store, and Dixie.
It's incredibly sweet.
This is a good place to call home.
Daffodils are out and I have jars of them set around the house. My garden is planted-- chinese cabbage, snowpeas, sweet peas, broccoli, carrots, potatoes-- and things are growing. Slowly, but growing. The pearl bush I planted next to the front steps and the pink tulips Kagan's sister gave me are blooming. This is my favorite time of year... before the weeds, before the heat, when all is green promise.
My chickens are laying-- all of them!-- and the rooster has learned to crow. K. hauled two pigs to the slaughterhouse yesterday, so the store's freezer is stocked with pork chops and patty sausage, and our freezer at home is full to the gills.
We both have thousands of projects ahead of us but the skeleton is in place, and now we can just do a little here, a little there, when we feel like it, and in five years or so, we'll look up and it'll be amazing.
Caspian's best friend came home with us after school yesterday and played until dinner time. They ran around in the field and played with legos on the porch and Caspian's face just glowed with love and joy. He is so my child.
The avocados are perfect right now. Caspian shucked sweet corn for dinner and we ate pork chops, corn on the cob, sliced avocado, tomato, and drank prosecco at the table last night.
February... cold, grey, snow, snow day. Everyone in town has reached a level of frustration expressed as a constant stream of commentary about the weather.
Book comes out in a month and people seem excited about it. I am less excited. I hope people like it, and it sells well, and perhaps leads to other revenue-generating income streams for me. I am much more excited about this year's produce season: can not wait to flood my store with peaches, blueberries, Amish strawberries.
Had a brief flurry of baby fever completely cured by a trip to see Stinks' baby, who is adorable, and a good baby, but nonetheless a baby, and so there goes that, thank goodness.
Have been cooking a great deal of good dinners lately and somehow it's relaxing, to lean into that responsability as oppposed to handing it off, as I've been doing for years now. I think about it the day before. That somehow makes it manageable. I also don't try anything very exotic: roast chicken, minestrone, spaghetti. Although I did make a completely amazing risi et bisi that no one seemed to like except me. Salmon cakes, on the other hand, were a winner. Go figure.
Annaliese lost her second tooth yesterday. Caspian is enormous. These are good things.
This pic cracks me up... we were at the store on Sunday to hand over a small lost dog to a good woman (long story) and it occurred to me that there we all were, dressed in our church clothes, and so we handed K's phone to an employee. The kids did not seem as thrilled with this idea as we were.
Pig roast on Sunday. House guests this weekend. K's birthday on Tuesday. My first book club meeting next Wednesday.
Busy times, good times. maybe someday, warmer and sunnier times.
January was off to a rocky start at my house. There was stomach flu, an infected finger, bitterly cold weather, burst pipes, livestock concerns. But I don't want to talk about any of that.
Last night we made a fire and ended up on the couch in front of it, playing rummy with the kids perched on the back of the couch, watching us, since their card proficiency does not extend beyond Go Fish. I'd already played Jenga with them anyhow. They sprawled. There was some tooting. Some teasing. So bitter rummy competition between me and K. It's easy to entertain ourselves these days.
Quotes I'd like to remember:
Annaliese with a birthday package on her lap, Caspian wistfully wondering if there was anything from Grandfather in it for him. Annaliese: "Don't worry Caspian. I'll let you play with my toys. Pinky-swear."
(And there WAS something for him! A hand-tooled wallet with a $5 bill that completely made his day.)
Caspian, yesterday, as Annaliese handed him a yogurt she'd brought from the store for him. ""I've been waiting for the yogurt truck my entire life."
Annaliese lost her first tooth this week. She took her gold dollar coin to school to show her class that the tooth fairy does exist. Her other bottom tooth is hanging by a thread but I haven't let K. pull it because I'm not adjusted yet to her missing one tooth, let alone two.
The store is in the January woes and it's challenging these days to keep solvent, but it doesn't phase me as much as it used to. It's been this way before. It'll be this way again. In the mean time, I get to hang out with my favorite folks.
So, I didn't work this week. Except Monday. Instead, I've stayed home with my babies and listened to them play with each other. I read a few books, colored a few pictures, and we broke out that Chinese checkers game Grandfather gifted us for Christmas. I did not bake, but I got K to make chocolate chip cookies last night, so that kind of counts. I burned my finger badly, walked with them downtown, took them to the exercise store, let them eat BBQ in the truck, dug in the flower beds, ordered rose bushes, fruit trees, and vegetable seeds, folded laundry, cleaned out the downstairs closet a little bit, and lay around quite a lot. And now I blogged. I am a paragon.
Annaliese this morning, before our walk downtown:
The kids spent a solid half-hour building a house together. Caspian was only allowed to build the walls, though they are technically his legos.
We tried to play soccer outside but Annaliese is very bossy and kept making up rules. We tried freeze tag but Caspian is very whiny and kept needing a break whenever i was close to tagging them. Fun was had somehow, nonentheless.
The wagon is in the shop getting tricked OUT (Thanks again, Grandfather!) so K has been letting me drive his struck. Sometimes. When I beg.
Last week Auntie E. came to visit. The poppets adore her.
She brought Charlie. We took him to the river. Other than my illness, an empty propane tank, and some bad weather, they seemed to enjoy themselves.
Tomorrow, life resumes. I'll be back at work. Annaliese is turning SIX on Monday (!!!!) and so we are taking the birthday girl and some friends out for roller skating and sundaes. School resumes Monday after a two-week break.
I am not sad, exactly, because I like regular life. But the sunshine sure feels good through the windows as you sit on the couch. Til next winter, laziness.
*I WILL have more time off between now and next winter. But most likely it'll be the traveling-to-see-folks time off variety.
The children are singing "Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat" and working to perfect a surprise for K and I in the kitchen. It seems to involve squeezing lemons and setting the table. I can't wait.
My week to stay home with the kids during Christmas break. Day One: every plan I made was derailed, and so the three of us spent the morning getting produce and the afternoon unpacking it.
They were champions. When we got home, I sat them down and told them so. Pride welled up in their eyes and they immediately set out to impress me more: unpack and put away the groceries, pick up the house, sweep the kitchen floor, and now, this.
Annaliese turns six on Monday. Caspian is four and a half. I am intensely proud of them both.
Just heard Annaliese tell Caspian, "Let's get Mama and Daddy." Report will ensue later.
It's pouring down rain and I am voluntarily driving to the big town north of here, though two of Boatie's windows will not roll up suddenly and mysteriously, which means I will have to drive the store van (and GET the store van).
There I shall drop off old clothes, meet with a bookstore lady about spring promotion etc, and pick up some produce.
Then I have an early lunch date at the store, even though I'm not working today (working a double tomorrow for an employee headed out of town) because Dixie's dishing up local turnip greens and I have never had them for real before.
The sickness that's been chasing me finally caught me and wrestled me to the ground. Went to a different doctor, got shot up with all the stuff I try not to take, and now feel human again. Big, big, big difference.
K's new project is amazing. He's made an enormous amount of progress in a single week, and it's fun watching him be excited to hit the door running. That being said, the balance is swinging again-- for instance, kids, Thanksgiving break, we both have to work, what gives? Guess we'll find out next week.
Next week, in fact, is going to be nuts. Monday, I have to pick up 20 local turkeys from an hour away and get them into our walk-in, while having both children and simultaneously getting interviewed by O magazine. (Uh huh). Tuesday, in between working like usual, I also have to appear in court (I WAS SERVED, Y'ALL, TO serve as a witness in a custody case of a former employee) and pick up Christmas trees. Wednesday is the day before Thanksgiving, meaning folks are going to be picking UP all those turkeys and also pies, cakes, and casseroles, the store closes early, and my mother and sister arrive (huzzah!).
I think Thursday is going to feel really, really good. Friday should be alright too. The store will be kind of half-way open: most people will be out of town, doing the black Friday thing, so we're going to restock, remake, and get decorated for Christmas. Set the trees up, bust out the gingerbread kits and extra goodies I've been squirreling away... I love Christmas at the store, with the smell of evergreen in the air.
So. How are the children?
The children are sometimes really wonderful and sometimes really awful. Caspian needs to take more naps but no one is at home to let him. Annaliese is ROCKING school but often has the world's worst, most adolescent tone in her voice, which we are working on, working on, working on. I've noticed they are happy to go to bed around 7 on these long dark nights and we are happy to let them.
These chilluns... it's a whole new ballgame these days.
Annaliese has this look a lot: grumpy, hiding a smile, sulky, pouty. Her daddy usually swoops her up and tickles her out of it.
Caspian is into Spiderman, as I think we all know now. His favorite chore at the store is carrying out empty boxes.
We're having a very lean Christmas this year: no storebought presents. Luckily for them, they are the only grandchildren on both sides and have three auntie/uncle sets who spoil them rotten... from us, they're getting built-in bookcases and boring stuff like that :) Annaliese's room is basically boxes set around the perimeter filled with junk that she is inordinately attached to (she's got the hoarder gene!) and she'll actually love it. When I asked them what they wanted for Christmas this year, they both looked up at me with their shining brown eyes and rosebud little mouths and I swear they lisped, "Whatevah Santa brings us, Mama."
Alright, time to vault out of pajamas and into the rain....