Sunday, February 26, 2012

Where the Chicks Hang Out

Drawn to the bright lights and endless buffet, they huddle together, socialize and snack on pink punch and grits. Is this a Southern Sorority party? Nope-- this scene will soon be playing out in a big metal tub at Iron Horse feed and pet supply! That's right, I'm talking about actual chicks. :) While I love it when the chicks, ducklings and goslings come to Jolene's local store in the spring, I visit Iron Horse year round. Long before the sounds of peeping and constant pecking of grit is audible, I drive through rain, snow and all other forms of weird Washington weather to acquire chicken feed, dog food, animal medication, salt licks (for our deer visitors) and stove pellets. Her storefront also provides me with something money can't buy-- ADULT CONVERSATION!!!

While our kids play, we have a little "hen party" at the counter. It's not uncommon for me to run into a few other "chicks" I know at Iron Horse-- including my next door neighbor, Debb! When she joins the party, we discuss how we should have carpooled, agonize over just what on earth we're going to fix for dinner and roll our eyes about how our dogs eat fancier food than we do. Sure, a dude or two pops into the store as well, but there are a whole lot of ladies filling their vehicles with everything from bales of alfalfa to hoof trimmers.

I have plenty of stores to choose from when it comes to dog food, but a lot of commercial brands would make poor Bela and Tanky sick, incredibly itchy or both. My aussies have a lot of food sensitivities (like owner, like dog!), which means that I go to the vet (and pay a king's ransom), a specialty pet store or a feed store to acquire their food. The pet store can feed my dogs just fine, but you sure won't find chicken feed or stove pellets there! No, this dear little store fills our needs in a way that even a larger feed store wouldn't. I have NEVER had to carry a heavy bag to my car. If we don't like something for any reason, she'll do whatever she can to make it right. When I ask for shavings, she knows to double check and make sure her loader grabs pine shavings, not cedar. Cedar could kill my dear chickens-- which, of course, I purchased from her when they were two day old chicks. She asks how I'm healing from my surgery. I was at her third child's baby shower. This is a special store, owned and run by one awesome "chick"!

I will never forget the look on my husband's face when she brought a ton of pellets to our barn. This tiny woman carried two forty pound bags at a time and kept up with her (much brawnier looking) husband! Let's face it, you wouldn't have seen a woman running a feed store and slinging bales of hay when my mother was growing up. It didn't mean that women weren't working their hearts out along side their husbands on farms across the country, it just wasn't something visible in public, and there certainly wasn't female leadership involved.

You want to know where I'm going with this, don't you? Well, I'm about to compare my church to a feed store. No, that wasn't a typo! You see, the "chicks" I hang out with at my church aren't just sitting in sewing circles or making casseroles for potlucks. Sure, that's part of our identity (well, not MINE on the sewing front-- I was born without a sewing gene. But I digress ...), but we also have women teaching adult Bible studies, feeding the homeless and contracting the new worship facilities we're in the process of building. These women aren't just lovely, they're hard working, dependable and strong. They don't just serve God from the quiet confines of their homes, they're deeply involved in keeping the church going!

Remember when I mentioned that dog food was easy to find, but SPECIALTY dog food, chicken feed and stove pellets were not? It's also true when it comes to community events for my family. We could keep busy doing anything from martial arts to watercolor painting classes, courtesy of our local parks and recreation department. We could have fun, visit with people and maybe even do a little something here and there for the people in our area. We love where we live and we love being involved here. However, the community center doesn't meet our specific needs like our church family does. Accountability, support and grace from our church family keep the home fires burning. (That's right, I just called my dear brothers and sisters in Christ "spiritual stove pellets!" It's a good thing they love me ...) There is spiritual food we cannot get anywhere but with our fellow believers. There are also dark times in our lives that require earnest prayer, a helping hand and sometimes a willingness to break a sweat. And as much as we aren't crazy about admitting it, there are those times when our lives break out in silent, almost undetectable sins that slowly eat away at us. (Yep, if you have animals, you know where I'm going with this. My church family can sometimes administer the Word of God like spiritual FLEA MEDICINE. Deal with it, peeps-- you've got Backwoods Betty blogging here, not Manhattan Molly! I call 'em like I see 'em!) Church for me is also a place where my family's little quirks (autism and food allergies, for example) aren't a big deal. Sunday School and VBS teachers give Wyatt transition cues, so he's not deeply upset when an activity ends. I have gluten-free communion wafers that enable me to partake in the sacrament of Holy Communion with everyone else. Nobody expects my husband to sing a solo or for me to do anything regarding paperwork of any kind, because they know which one of us is the bubbly extrovert and which one is the quiet, brilliant counter of church donations and logical stacker of chairs.

So why do I love Iron Horse feed store and partying with my church peeps? I don't know, I guess it's just a chick thing ... :)

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

Friday, February 24, 2012

My Ever-Quotable Kids (Both Biological and Rental) Part 1

Another Friday has arrived, thus meaning that I've had all kinds of commentary from the children in my life-- all of which I couldn't possibly make up if I tried! :)

Stuff the Tween Says~
Molly (my almost-twelve year old rental tween and ONLY GIRL besides myself who isn't furry or feathered) pops in from time to time-- usually when the local school district deems it necessary to have a random day off and employers do not extend the same courtesy to her parents. ;) She's more of a "mother's helper" than a child in need of tending, but she's still in that wonky in-between stage of life. One minute she's applying her makeup, the next, she's building a fort with the boys! I heard this conversation in the car and nearly drove off the road, due to the unexpected (and perfectly timed) sarcasm from Miss Molly ...

Molly: Hey Amy, do you remember when my fish died and I was too sad to eat breakfast?
Alan: How did your fish die?
Molly: *eyes rolling to the point of potential permanent strain* He drowned, Alan ...

Look Who's Talking!~
Those of you who followed my blog last year may remember when I wrote about Kaelin (a.k.a. "the rental toddler") and his struggles with speech delay. My, what a difference a year makes! Thanks to the tireless work from his parents and his amazing speech therapist, Kaelin is anything but quiet these days! He is still struggling with some of his sounds, but the progress he has made in the last 11 months has provided me with yet another quotable kiddo in the house. :) He is also now a big brother to Jaxson, my newest "Rental Baby," who is seven months old. It's always interesting seeing siblings interact, and these two are no exception ...

Kaelin: Jax, take you(r) binky out and use your WORDS!
Me: Honey, Jax is a baby. He can't talk yet.
Kaelin: Jax have words, Tante!
Me: Oh, really? What does he say?
Kaelin: *sticks out his tongue* Phbbbbbbbbbt!
Me: *Uncharacteristically speechless-- not to mention outsmarted by a three-year-old*

My Ever-Helpful First Born~
Alan always wants to make sure that everyone is receiving special gifts and treats-- not to mention one who is highly susceptible to marketing! My little empath is not so little anymore-- he's almost as tall as I am and I can wear his shoes! His perpetual growth spurt aside, I am still most intrigued by how much Alan cares about everyone-- and I mean EVERYONE. I'm used to him urging me to go get myself a latte, but his mission to bless others with specialty beverages goes far beyond humanity ...

"Mommy, Suzie (our SUV) has been really well behaved lately. She's such a good car--don't you think she deserves some Chevron gas with Techron?"

My Unpredictable Youngest~
Wyatt continues to amaze, baffle, frustrate and amuse me more with each passing day. While he reads years beyond his grade level and knows all his multiplication tables at seven, he is just beginning to care more about quality time, lullabies and attachment objects. Because he has both Autism and ADHD, he hyper-focuses on something for days or even weeks-- then abruptly moves on to something else. This week, he has decided he cares a lot about his stuffed Snake ...

"Mommy, Snakey is the best guy ever. He guards my room. He didn't attack you, because you're on my 'friend list.' I'm going to take him everywhere I can. I know I can't take him to church or school, but there are a lot of places I can take him-- an Italian restaurant, for example ..."

What I've learned from my kids this week:

Little Jax is quite different from his older brother. He is more laid back about what bottles he'll take and less likely to awaken from a sudden noise (a real asset when you have three other children, two dogs and a frequently used espresso machine in the house), plays with toys more independently and it's possible that he's an even bigger flirt towards the ladies than Kaelin was! That being said, there are some areas where he's a lot like his big brother, as well. He needs lots of cuddles, loves to eat Tante's food (as long as it isn't peas) and is already a very mobile little dude!

While watching him play near my feet, I witnessed poor Jax struggling with depth perception, the inability to use his head to get himself to a standing position (this led to some rather awkward, yet adorable "baby tripod" moments) and the enemy of all little ones-- gravity. He would grin with accomplishment when he was able to obtain a toy he wanted, beam when he got his foot and his pacifier in his mouth at the same time and shriek with delight when he was able to make his battery-operated keyboard light up and make noise.

Just when it seemed as though the world was his oyster, he attempted to lay down on on what he was presuming to be a comfy, blanketed carpet. Sadly, object permanence and motor planning (to look before plopping backwards with great momentum, for example) are not skills infants posses at this age. Alas, the poor fellow did not land on carpet. In stead, he was rather uncomfortably arched across the roof of Old MacDonald's (plastic) farm. As I sprang up to retrieve the diminutive human slinky near my fuzzy pink slipper socks, his soft whimper and alarmed expression clearly communicated, "Tante, this was NOT my plan!"

Poor baby, he wasn't trying to rip a magazine, chew on a cord or give the doggie a bald spot-- he just wanted to change direction, so he could acquire and voraciously gnaw on his teething fishy. This wasn't an act of defiance, or even a testing of limits. The poor guy just didn't calculate his landing well; which seemed to make him as unhappy as the plastic rooster weather vane poking him in the tuchas.

What's a Tante to do? Of course, I scooped that precious little boy up, prattled on (in the tone of voice that I involuntarily use with babies, dogs and other smallish, adorable members of society) about how mean and wicked that plastic menace was for hurting my precious Jackaroo, dried his tears and kissed his chubby little cheeks until he smiled once more.

At thirty-four, I may have this whole walking thing down (for the most part, anyway), but I still relate to poor Jax stuck on that barn roof. As a busy wife and mom, I try, I really do, to stay on top of things. Doctor's appointments, paperwork, teacher conferences, laundry, dishes, menu planning, mending, church activities ... I have a lot going on, and (for the most part), I love it. However, there are times when I forget to check all three calendars, absentmindedly leave my keys in my pocket in stead of hanging them up, send the electric company's check to the garbage company or I misplace my cell phone (and it's ALWAYS on silent when I do). With one miscalculation, my full, but manageable day turns into a paralyzing ordeal. I feel completely overwhelmed, frazzled and stuck. I play the "if only" game, chide myself for not being more organized and I feel waves of panic and the reality of my failure splashing me in the face. To make matters worse, the more panicked I become, the more likely I am to have a "chick moment" and cry about it. Awesome. I'm already going to be late, and now I'm also going to have swollen eyes and a red nose when I get there? THIS WAS NOT MY PLAN!!!!!

It is then that I receive a reminder in my spirit concerning the constant availability of unconditional love and comfort from my Heavenly Father. He doesn't say, "I told you so," point out why things didn't work out or tell me this is the last time he's going to listen to my sniffling, whiny tale. No, He brings to mind scriptures about His boundless mercies, the promise to grant peace into my chaotic life and example upon example of how precious I am to Him. As if that weren't enough, once I calm down, He often also inspires me with the whereabouts of my keys, so I can get out the door! :) I will continue to fail each and every day of my life, because I will continue to live in an imperfect world as my imperfect self. What a blessing to know that I serve a God who knows my heart, in spite of what I actually accomplish! I also take great comfort in knowing that I do not slip and fall under the watchful eye of a God who sits nearby. I know that no matter how I stumble, sprawl or belly flop, I never leave the palm of his hand.

Are you sprawled atop your miscalculations and failures, wondering how you'll ever find relief? Are constant stress and worry a pain in your tuchas? Take comfort, dear reader, in knowing that the loving arms of God are always available to those who reach out for Him. :)

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dining From the Wrong Pot

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Psalm 34:8

Hooooooooooo dowgiez, yesterday was crazy! Amidst a slew of appointments and preparing for Ash Wednesday services, I also remembered that my family and my dogs needed dinner before I left for the evening. As I didn't have time to hit the feed store for more dog food, I went ahead and made dinner for everyone at once. While the linguini and clam sauce (the humans' dinner) boiled away in anticipation for their blessed union, a stock pot full of brown rice, oats, chicken and carrots simmered for my canine companions. Before flying out the door to yet another appointment before service, I quickly told my beloved (who had offered to stay home with our VERY tired, crabby children) when everyone's dinner would be ready.

While driving home from service, I called my hubby to check in. By the fatigue in his voice, I could tell that my little princes had been far from charming. He mentioned that they were both in bed and had not even asked for bedtime snack, they were so tired. When I asked him if he'd had enough to eat, he said, "It was yummy-- I just picked out the carrots."

Confused, I tried to think of where he would have found carrots in the linguine. Then I remembered the dog food and began to try to find a non-alarming way to tell my husband whose dinner he had consumed! While I mulled that over, I heard laughter on the other line. That stinker was messing with my head! Relieved, amused and annoyed all at once, I told him he'd be eating with the dogs permanently if he wasn't nice to me.

Later that night, I thought about what would have happened if he really had eaten "puppy porridge" instead of the "people pasta." Clearly, it wouldn't have hurt him-- it was made from all "human-grade" food in our pantry. As it consisted of whole grains, vegetables and protein, he certainly would have received a nutritious meal. However, the thought of rice, oats, canned chicken and carrots simmering together with just a pinch of salt and some parsley doesn't exactly make me hungry. It would have been bland as all get out and VERY mushy-- ideal for a dog, but not too appetizing for my husband!

There are times when we plan our future in a similar fashion. Our plans make sense, would fulfill our needs and seem to come together easily-- thus, we assume that we are following God's will for our lives. Little do we know, we are settling for a mushy, bland existence when God has something far more amazing planned for us. No one would want to miss out on God's plans, but how do we know what his will is?

Just as listening to me prevented my husband from eating puppy porridge, spending quiet time with God can help us to better understand his perfect will for us. It"s not easy for me to sit quietly for ANY reason; I wonder how often that has resulted in a bland, mushy life. Hmmmmm ... food for thought ..

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

But I Might Need this ...

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28

When traveling with yours truly, that sentence has caused more busted tote bag zippers, over-taxed suitcase wheels and cramped floorboards than I'd care to admit. I am a MAJOR over-packer! What do I stuff in there? Well, I'd love to say that the items are practical, but unless a water landing can be assisted by a carry-on filled to the brim with several balls of yarn, pattern books and a ridiculous assortment of shoes, I don't suppose they would qualify as such.

My poor husband attempts to make sense of my choices while playing "trunk Tetris;" hoping that I will have a different answer than I have for the last fifteen years. He mentions that wherever we're going will most likely have craft stores. He attempts to gently remind me that I can find most any pattern I would ever need online. He questions just how many times in one given day I will have the time to change my footwear. And every time, I give him the same answer: "But what if I want ____ and I don't have it?" He shakes his head and somehow makes it all fit ... again.

Throughout our vacation, I lug my bags from place to place, seldom even opening them. I can count on one hand the number of times I have actually even finished a project while on vacation. I generally wear the same pair of shoes the entire time. Once I become focused on enjoying my family, I don't need to keep occupied and I'm certainly not concerned with my footwear. When we return home, I grumble while carrying all of our belongings in; wondering what possessed me to bring so much-- until next time ...

The family of God is on a trip together during this season of Lent. We are traveling with a God who is able to supply all of our needs, but I come with a rather heavy pack. It's not full of yarn, it's full of my hang-ups. Pride, insecurity, impatience, worry ... they're all in there, just to name a few. The load I insist on bringing is heavy, confining and, at times, quite painful. Convinced I might need them, I stubbornly cling to my burdens, and complain about how hard they make my journey.

The good news is, God doesn't insist that I only get in the car when I trust him perfectly. He knows I'll over-pack for the journey of Lent each year-- we all do! In stead, He lovingly urges me to release my hang ups one at a time, so I can experience the journey with freedom and room for growth.

As we take this "trip" through Lent together, I'll be sharing some of the bags I need to ditch, as well as the "snapshots" and "souvenirs" I uncover along the way. Traveling is never without trials, but I've always found Lent to be worth the trip! With the destination of Easter in sight, I'm nervous but excited to start this journey once more-- I hope you are, too!

In Lenten Love and Friendship,