August 19, 2015

Go Set a Watchman

A few weeks back Go Set A Watchman was all over my FB newsfeed. Review after review talked about the fall of Atticus Finch. People ranted about the shocking discovery that Atticus was a closet racist, Jean Louise (nee Scout) was almost engaged to a member of the KKK, and everything in Maycomb, GA was coming crashing down.

I immediately locked down and said no way, no how am I reading this sacrilege. Atticus Finchis still atop the pedestal he's lived on since I was in 8th grade and I'm not going to do anything that might topple him. Scout, Jem, and Dill live on in my mind in those endless Georgian summers playing in the road, spying on Boo Radley, and reading to Mrs.Dubose as she battles morphine withdrawal. I have no desire to change any of that.

But then QM went and did the unthinkable. She bought the book.

My resolve crumbled like my Grandpa's sugar cookies.

The week before school started, I went back to Maycomb.

I've been digesting Go Set a Watchman for about 2 weeks now and I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about it. Points in the book seemed like an unnecessary sequel to Mockingbird. But since it was actually written first, I know that's not the case. Quite a few flashbacks to Scout's and Jem's childhood were scattered through the book making the original publisher's idea behind Mockingbird seem like the perfect choice. As a stand alone, I don't think I would have been impressed with the latest book.

Without giving too much away, Jean Louise comes home for 10 days in the summer and has her childhood ideals come crashing down around her. The point is that she needs to separate her personal identity from the identity she's created for herself in Atticus's shadow. She needs to find her own moral foundation and stop living on her father's. For that to happen Atticus cannot continue to live on the pedestal Scout has placed him on her entire life. She has to grow up and therefore grow apart.

The book touches on many of the ideas behind states rights that were still very prevalent in the south; the thought process behind segregation, the notion that equality was a pipe dream, and the divide between urban ideals and rural values. Because the book was originally written during the civil rights movement, I think it gives a perspective on segregation we often miss out on in public school history class. I think I better understand why segregationists fought to keep the status quo and why otherwise compassionate and intelligent Southerner clung so tightly to the idea. That's not to say I agree with their reasoning, it's just to say I understand it a little better.

A friend (who happens to be a retired English teacher/writer born and raised in Harper Lee's South)  stated she was unsure the book should have been published at all. After reading it, and somewhat enjoying it  for the nostalgia it produced, I'm inclined to agree with her. The book is a disjointed attempt at reconciling Harper Lee's Southern upbringing with her later life in New York. It's a book that, without the surety of making a lot of money on Ms. Lee's name alone, probably wouldn't have made it past the Free Kindle Book list.

All that said, I do not regret reading it and I did enjoy the book (even though my review seems to state otherwise). But if you're looking for the importance of To Kill a Mockingbird, I fear you'll be disappointed.

As for me, I choose Atticus Finch to remain a paragon of virtue in my imagination, regardless of his literary evolution.

July 23, 2015

Deeper and deeper in love I fall.

I'm beginning to wonder if I could convince Jennifer Adams to come write my life story. In short, possibly 2 to 3 word sentences. And while I'm at it, I need Alison Oliver to illustrate it...or my entire house. Whichever she likes. I'm not picky.

Ms.Adams and Ms.Oliver are the minds behind BabyLit. And they are lovely minds I'd like to settle in with for a few hours on a breezy afternoon. Let me know before you come over, ladies, and I'll start a campfire and get the s'mores fixin's ready.

Last week good mail came to The Farm in the form of Little Miss Burnett’s The Secret Garden: A BabyLit Flowers Primer and Master Cervantes’ Don Quixote: A BabyLit Spanish Language PrimerOnce again, I am overjoyed.

 First of all, a flower primer? In board book form? How sweet is that? I am clueless about flowers in general. I know roses, peonies, lily of the valley, and a few other odds and ends, but get past the basics and I'm over here like, "The pink one is pretty." Now, thanks to a primer for littles I know what Canterbury Bells look like. Not only do I know what they look like, but if asked by a small child, I could doodle an approximation of one.

Secondly, I know that as parents we're supposed to be over the moon when something teaches our children a second language, but there is only so much Dora The Explorer I can handle. Luckily Don Quixote is here to save me from The Map, Backpack, and The Grumpy Old Troll Who Lives Under the Bridge (seriously, is Dora still on? I don't even know). I now know, that should I ever find myself in Holland with a desperate need to identify a windmill in Spanish, I can now say, "Los molinos de viento." And thanks to the dual pronunciation guide on the back of the book, I'll even pronounce it correctly.

Now if only my children would survive long enough to give me grandbabies I can read to! Until then I'll just have to practice on my amazing nephew PG and THE NEW BABY ART IS HAVING IN MARCH!!

Yeah, there's that, too.

So if you are in need (and really, who isn't in need) of the sweetest board books ever to come from classic literature, run right out (or sit right there in your pajamas because Amazon) and order all of these. And while you're at it, I still need copies of Emma, Treasure Island, Wuthering Heights, and all the rest. Email me and I'll give you my shipping address.

June 23, 2015

When they hurt.

My brother Bubba and his wife Beck need prayers.

Just before school let out Bubba called. I was outside and #1 Son answered. He came out with the cordless and said, "It's Uncle Bubba {yes, they absolutely do call my brother 'Uncle Bubba'}, he says it's 'extremely important.'"  I knew immediately. Beck was pregnant.

She had literally just peed on the stick. Minutes before. I was the first phone call they made. We don't wait to share news like this in our family. When I found out I was pregnant with B.B., I was on the phone with QM when the 3 minute timer went off. How Princess kept her mouth shut until HT's t-shirt came in is beyond me.

Bubba's phone call came the Friday before Mother's Day. I remember because he swore me to silence until Sunday. They were going to tell Beck's parent's first and then tell QM and Daddy on the way home. It was supposed to be a Mother's Day surprise. I agreed to keep still but got a message from QM within 2 hours. They had already been to QM and Daddy's and told everyone they've met since kindergarten. They did manage to keep the secret from Beck's folks until Mother's Day- but they were the only ones in the dark.

Bubba and Beck surprised us Friday when they showed up at the door just before lunch. They were going to family reunion on Sunday and to see Grandma M&M on Saturday. We spent most of the visit chatting about the baby, pregnancy, and doctor's appointments.

Today was their first ultrasound.

Today they found out January won't mean bringing home baby.

There was no heartbeat.

They are crushed. My little brother was over the moon at the thought of being a father. Princess called me with the news and said he couldn't even talk when he called QM.

Please pray for them. For all of us.

June 16, 2015

BabyGirl is a freshman. Isn't that the most revolting thing you've read in months? Once they walk through the line at 8th grade graduation, our kids are officially labeled "Freshman." How can that be possible? I'm pretty sure it was just last week we were wrestling her into a pair of capris and a ratty tank top to drag her kicking and screaming out the door for 1st grade. There's no way she's 1 semester away from drivers ed. I reject your reality and substitute my own.

The week of her graduation was a tough one. We had VBS at church every day immediately after school. Miss T and I were busy trying to pack up our kitchen for summer break. One of our walk-in freezers died 2 days before school got out. I was trying to pack up so we could leave Friday immediately after I got off work so we could go to TN for Art's wedding. I was going to get to see PG (Princess's baby boy) up close for the first time that weekend. Hormones were raging. Mommy feelings were raw with BabyGirl moving on from the school she'd been in for 10 years. The house was a hot mess. The FarmHands were dragging home everything they'd ever made at school. And husband and I were having a breakdown in communication that was leaving me a weepy mess.

Graduation was Thursday night. QM was coming to town on Wednesday afternoon but Daddy couldn't make it. Wednesday I had to run to town to get BabyGirl a graduation present. Then I ran home to start scrubbing bathrooms and doing laundry. I was beyond exhausted and only 1/2 way through a very long week.

Daddy called to chat and I had a full on bawling meltdown on the phone. I was tired, angry, stressed out, and there was no end in sight. He kept telling me it was all going to be OK. He told me to take a deep breath and that no matter how things went I'd be done in just a few days. I hung up the phone and cried like a baby.

QM had told me she was nearly here but wanted to stop by Busha and Bucka's house first. Since I was in mad lady cleaning mode and had to pick the FarmHands up from VBS at 5:30, I told her I'd see her then. She told me she wanted to drop off BabyGirl's graduation present since it wasn't wrapped.

I met QM on the road home after VBS. She turned around before we got to her and was parked in my driveway when we pulled up. I hustled everyone inside and only had a chance for a cursory greeting before BB went into full on meltdown over a stye on his eyelid. I was trying to calm him down while washing his hands and fixing a hot compress while telling QM about my earlier meltdown on the phone with Daddy. Suddenly I heard a familiar voice say, "Hey, Aunt FarmWife?"

I didn't have to turn around. When I heard HT I knew QM had brought Princess and the boys with her. Deep sobs were instant and I fell on my mother while my sister was slipping her shoes off at the back door. When I turned to greet her, Princess just held out a sleeping bundle to me. "Here, just take him," she said.

The pictures of me meeting PG for the first time are of a bawling mess of an aunt and the sleepy smile of a tiny curled up nephew.

That was a good day.

The days that followed were also good.

Husband and I ironed out our communication issue. I finished my 3rd school year as a lunch lady. BabyGirl successfully (honors society gold cord and all) and beautifully (when did my little blonde with clothing issues become a stunning young lady) graduated from junior high. Art married her best friend in the most beautiful and touching ceremony I've ever witnessed. I spent 3 1/2 days in TN loving on my nephews, laughing with my family, and enjoying the hills I miss so much when I'm home.

Days have been good since. They've been long. They've been lazy. Summer has been simple. And it's not half over.

May 9, 2015

If you need me, I'll be doodling.

I got an email a few weeks back from my Internet boyfriend- Eric. He was reaching out to blogging moms to see if we wanted to review a new book by the same ladies who wrote these amazing board books. How could I say no?

Yesterday this beauty came in the mail:

It has been available from Gibbs Smith since August of last year. You can order it directly from the publishers or hit up Amazon. If you're housing a doodler, or happen to be a doodler at heart yourself, especially one with a penchant for classic literature, I highly suggest it.

I REALLY wish I could post pictures from the inside of the book, but alas, they are not readily available and my scanner is on the fritz. But given the opportunity to color Netherfield Hall, draw a new hat for Anna Karenina, The Hound of the Baskervilles hanging out on a cliff, Queequeg's tattoos, stamps for Mina to put on her letters to Harker, hats for The Mad Hatter, or weather vanes for Wuthering Heights, who can resist?

Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver did an amazing job on the drawings and ideas in the book. There are quite a few pages for you to fill in with your own doodling, some simple crafts, invitations for themed parties, places you can write stories, and lots of pages that tell you to make multiple copies. The pages are perforated so you can pull them out and share one book between multiple children.

That said, I'm not entirely sure I'm going to share this one with the FarmHands. I like it too much. Do moms really have to share? Perhaps I'll stash it away for those rainy days during Summer break when the natives get restless.

May 3, 2015

So, I'm not dead. There's that.

I can see how you'd wonder as I've been missing from the face of blogdom since November. As I stated in my last post, I've become a bad blogger. For this I am sincerely apologetic. I'd like to make campaign promises about how I will write more, how I will connect with my blogging buddies more frequently, how I will address the real issues of race and climate change and the economy, but in the end it would all be lies- much like actual campaign promises.

Instead I will fill you in on the high points of our life.

Husband has decided to be a hog farmer. If we are Facebook friends you've more than likely had an invite for a hog farm page sitting in your inbox for months. That's us. Pig people. To be entirely honest, I'm not real thrilled with this entire idea. We've had pigs before and they are not my favorite critters. The smell is atrocious- especially come a humid summer day. The mud and rutted up pens I could entirely do without. They are fun to watch though, and I don't think I even need to mention bacon. So we'll see if the benefits outweigh the stench.

We currently have (and look at me being all knowledgeable about hogs) 2 full blooded Berkshire gilts (those are females who have yet to have a litter), 2 Berkshire/Hampshire cross gilts, 2 Hampshire/Yorkshire cross gilts, 1 full blooded Berkshire barrow (a castrated male raised for meat), and 1 full blooded Berkshire boar (an intact male used for breeding). Berkshires are a heritage breed that are "vulnerable" meaning there aren't that many of them around. Their meat is marbled much like Angus cattle. In fact, I found a website that sells 1.5 pounds of Berkshire bacon for $25. So I'm waiting and hoping for some really good bacon.

As there are only 15 days of school left (not that I'm counting), we're gearing up for summer break. We've got BabyGirl's 8th grade graduation (I am so not prepared for this and for what it means is coming), 4 birthdays, 2 kids going to camp, Husband and #1 Son gearing up for a week long mission trip to Montana, and Art's wedding to attend!! Yup, my very dearest friend is getting married the day after my oldest son turns 12. I'm over the moon excited for her. I adore her fiance (known around these parts as Stoffer) and his daughter and I cannot wait to see how their families blend.

But bigger and better than all of this: Princess had her baby! PG (Prince Grumpy- per his mother) was born far too early for this auntie's taste. Princess's water broke early February 2nd and I went into a near panic. She wasn't due until mid March. After too many hours, a lot of prayer, and a good dose of pitocin, PG finally made his appearance very late that night. He was a tiny dude but was breathing on his own from the get go. He spent close to 2 weeks in the hospital (most of that in the NICU) but grew like a champ and got to go home with no real issues.

This Auntie only got to peek at him through the windows of the NICU the weekend after he was born but has yet to lay hands on him. I'm counting down the days to Art's wedding because that means I get to see PG in the flesh. HT tells me his brother is doing "dang good" and that he can't talk yet.

In the middle of all of this excitement, QM had a brief but nasty case of the shingles. She spent the better part of a month in bed, fighting pain. Daddy came up here to finish work on a cabin he & QM have put in at Busha and Bucka's house so QM has somewhere to stay when she comes up to help out. Bucka isn't in great shape. His mind is going and he can't get around very easily. Busha is worn out trying to keep up with him so QM will have to spend a lot more time up here in the future. They bought a shed back in September and had it put in Busha's yard. Daddy, Husband, and I have spent quite a bit of time framing in a bedroom and small bathroom, insulating, putting up paneling, painting, putting car siding up on the ceiling and flooring down in the entire thing. It's looking good and I can proudly say I now know how to wire an outlet.

November 10, 2014

A post that isn't about books or grief!

I realized today that I haven't written anything other than book reviews in months. Months. Do you know why?

Because Facebook.

Facebook takes all my funny stories and condenses them to tidbits and sends them out to what I believe is  a much larger audience than this blog I rarely inhabit these days. If I post something on Facebook it has the possibility of reaching 731 people (yes, I am friends with everyone I've ever brushed elbows with). If I post something here, it might reach 30 of you....if there are still 30 of you out there....which I doubt.

I am a bad blogger.

But today I want to share good things. Only good things. Good, funny, happy things. And possibly a few mildly inappropriate things.

First of all, Bitsy has learned to curse. It's an important step in the life of a 7 year old girl. We are trying to be, wait....that's not how this story goes. I'll try again.

Bitsy learned to curse. Accidentally.

I was doing whatever it is I do in my free time (ha, ha, I have free time) when the boys start shouting, "Bitsy is cussing! Bitsy is cussing!"

Bitsy immediately jumps to her own defense. "I WAS NOT!!!"

"Yes you were!"
"No I wasn't!"
"Yes, you were!"
You get the drift.

Eventually I stepped in and asked what she said. "She said the 'D' word, Mom," #1 Son tells me.
Again, Bitsy jumps to her own defense, "No I wasn't cussing. All I said was 'dammit.'"
Um. Well. "Bitsy, 'dammit' is cussing."
"But everyone at school says it."
Yes, we're sending our daughter to a progressive school where the staff randomly spew obscenities at the second graders.
"It's still cussing, Bitsy."
*Cue hysterics*
Bitsy falls to pieces- sobbing, bawling, weeping and gnashing of teeth.
"It's OK, honey. Just don't do it anymore."
More weeping and sobbing and a final collapse into her bed until she has the strength to once again face a world where she has done the unthinkable.

New story- We placed our membership in the church we've been attending since July. I am very happy with our decision. I am very happy with where I believe God has placed us. The church has accepted us with open arms, and hymn books (they made me song leader 2 Sundays a month after our second month in church). The kids are loving their classes and youth groups. BabyGirl and I have joined the Christmas Choir. I no longer have to drag myself out of bed on Sundays. I no longer silently hope for a headache that renders me unable to make it to church. I want to be there and I haven't felt that in a long time. I know that's not entirely our old church's fault. Most of it is, infact, my fault. My attitude was not what it should have been. A fresh perspective and certain unhealthy bonds being broken have helped greatly.

On to other things- BabyGirl is in the midst of her last year as a cheerleader. It's bittersweet. She's come into her own. She's enjoying herself and is discovering her leadership abilities as co-captain. I'm proud of her. She's even made the honor roll for the first time in her junior high career. She's struggled since starting 6th grade. It's nice to see her succeed and  be proud of her own accomplishments.

The best news of all is getting stuck in the middle- Princess is expecting again! We all assumed HT was going to be a singleton so it was a huge surprise when he came into QM and Daddy's wearing a t-shirt that said, Only Child: Expiration Date- March 2015. On Halloween she found out baby #2 is going to be a boy child as well. Now I just have to think of a bloggy name to give him. I asked HT if the new baby was going to be awesome like he and I are. "That depends on if the baby can do cool things." Apparently we do cool things.

Speaking of the new baby- Bitsy and I were discussing grandparents and grandchildren one day. She has a perfect grasp of who her grandparents are and why they are her grandparents. The idea of grandchildren is (apparently) much harder to understand. "What is a grandkid?"
"It's what you are to Grammy and Pa. Grandkids are your children's children."
"So I am Grammy and Pa's grandkid?"
"Aunt Princess's new baby will be your grandkid, right?"
"No. It will be my neice or nephew." (This conversation was pre-ultrasound.)
"Who are your grandkids?"
"I don't have any."
"Ohhhhhh, but you'll have them when I- IF I- have kids."
Bingo! The emphasis on "if" made me a bit nervous, but at least now she realizes my nephew isn't going to be my grandson.

And finally, for a bit of Ewwwww and PDA. After church last night we had just finished herding the FarmHands in and attempting to get everyone settled in so they could watch Once Upon a Time before bed. Husband and I were in our bedroom/bathroom doorway when he picked me up, tossed me on the bed, and gave me a big kiss. BabyGirl, from the living room, yells, "I can HEAR you!" Her dad yells back, "So?!" She yells at him to shut the door while I'm laughing so hard I'm about to lose bladder control. He hollers back at her, "At least your parents LIKE EACH OTHER!" I'm pretty sure she'd been happier if we weren't on speaking terms at that moment.