Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Little Laugh in the Express Lane

Yesterday I was at the grocery store with my three youngest kids. The cashier seemed to be in a bit of a snippy mood. I was a little nervous because I was pushing the "20 item limit" in the express lane and the man behind me was waiting to just buy two gallons of milk. I only glanced at him quickly. He looked a bit rough around the edges -- kind of like a less fortunate Willie Nelson -- older, thin, long gray hair, etc.

After the obligatory, "Did you find everything you needed?" from the cashier, we all went about our business. The man behind me leaning over his cart waiting his turn. The cashier ringing up and bagging my stuff. Me sliding my debit card and sticking finished bags around kids in my cart.

On a sudden good will impulse, the cashier asked, somewhat halfheartedly, if my kids wanted a sticker.

"Oh," I assured her, "I'm sure these girls would love a sticker."

She gave one from a long roll to Goldie and Penny. While I told them to thank her, she motioned to Jesse and asked, "Does he need one?"

"Oh," I smiled, "No thanks. He'd probably just eat it."

There wasn't anything too hilarious about that, but for some reason it made her laugh. Suddenly the wrinkled and long gray haired man behind me was chuckling too.

"I suppose it wouldn't kill him if he did eat it," I offered.

The cashier laughed, "Maybe there's a little protein in them, hm?"

The man behind me seemed to be quite brightened at the thought of my trouble making little boy eating his sticker and was now chuckling even more fully with us. "Eat the sticker," he mumbled, shaking his head, "Boys will be boys, eh?"

I laughed again with them; took my receipt, and that was that.

It was such a little thing. But it made me happy to have shared that small moment of laughter with those two strangers. It made me think about us as people. We pass each other all day and seldom make even the tiniest connection or acknowledgement. That was such a little thing at the store. It was only two minutes, but for those two minutes, we weren't just oblivious strangers. I liked that even though the three of us appeared to have absolutely nothing at all in common -- age, lifestyles, appearance, etc. -- for a minute we all made a little connection. I can't really explain it. I just like anything that makes me stop and see those around me as real individuals rather than just, "the rough looking guy behind me" or "the snippy cashier."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Trouble in "Blog into Book" Land

WHEW!!! Do you know what this is?I will tell you. It is a picture of what your computer screen looks like when you are creating a blog book out of your blog using blurb's BookSmart software. It is an image I thought was gone FOREVER from my screen. (Side note, I feel like a complete and total GENIUS that I even knew how to put a shot of my computer screen on here).

I wrote a few months ago about having finished my first blog book. It was so exciting, but a lot of work, so I didn't even want to think about working on the next one for a long time. However, a burst of . . . a burst of . . . well, a burst of something -- book making energy? came upon me the past month or two and with that burst of book making energy, I spent hours getting another book nearly ready to print. It was nearing completion (which for some reason I have established as about 200 pages per book) when our Windows went out.

At first, we were afraid our hard drive had crashed. And instead of thinking of how many times people have told me to back up things like all our family photos (which I haven't done since moving back here), all I could do was clutch my stomach in nauseous fear that my HOURS of work on this book were forever gone.

I really have spent many hours working on it. I am much better at manipulating the layouts this time around and have found that I can nearly always get each page how I want as far as words and pictures being where I need, etc. But doing each page just right takes so much work. Plus, I must have loaded my pictures in poor quality on my blog originally because each time I try to make them one bit big in my book, I always get a warning that the image quality is crummy. That's fine because you can just browse and get the images from your pictures on your computer, but when you have posts with tons of pictures and you are trying to go find them all again, it is not much fun.

When I thought that what I'd done so far was maybe gone forever, I simply couldn't imagine redoing all those same miserable pages again. I didn't think I could stand the hours of arranging the same ones over again.

When we realized it was just our Windows, Mike was able to restore everything, and my book stuff still appeared to be living on our computer, but the software would no longer acknowledge it. I couldn't import it, I couldn't start a new book even. It was a mess.

I'd had a problem at one point with my first book (and again with my second) that had required the blurb customer service folks to step in and force me to email them things I didn't know how to email and import things I didn't know how to import, but, in the end, had fixed my book. This time, however, they weren't finding my problem so quickly.

The first customer service person I got after our Windows crash didn't know what to make of it and sent me up a notch to "Padraic." "Mike!" I'd said, "It's Padraic again! He was the one who helped me the last time . . . and maybe even the first time. Padraic will surely know what to do!"

Mike told me that he was starting to feel suspicious of Padraic. Perhaps, he suggested, Padraic was sending these errors my way from some remote location in hopes of continuing our computer lingoed correspondence. He wasn't sure that he liked me sitting there all alone, emailing Padraic the issue with our software.

"But I LOVE Padraic," I protested, "and," shaking my fists in anger at the computer, "I HATE Padraic!"

I then told him that if I could keep Padraic, he could have Fiona. (Fiona being the host of an AM Irish music hour after the Garrison Keiller show -- I don't know that Fiona is much of a husband stealer, but, I greatly envy her lovely Irish accent and can only assume it acts as a powerful Siren's call). Or, (thinking along the lines of radio), I offered Dr. Laura -- if he preferred.

He conceded that Dr. Laura would surely know how to properly treat a man, but admitted to being terrified by her. So, we were at an impasse. In the end, however, I and my problems were too much for Padraic to handle, and he cast me aside to his supervisor -- Craig.

Craig was all about business and assumed I knew more about computers than I did (judging from the instructions he gave me), so this meant I had to pull Mike in every time Craig emailed to say, "Umm, can you do this for me? I don't really understand a word he's saying . . . what does navigate to C:/users something something mean??" And Mike, Craig and I would slave away at trying to figure the problem (with no Padraic, Fiona or Dr. Laura even).
After about two weeks of this, I was feeling certain that the fault was somehow permanently associated to something that had happened with our Windows issue and the work I'd done on my book was gone for good. Then, today, customer service man Craig asked me to send a screen shot of some error (and that's how I learned to do that genius screen shot business that is not at all one bit genius, but shows how computer illiterate I am). He then told me to drag some file out of its location onto the desktop. Well, that was easy enough. So easy I didn't even have to wait for Mike to come home and do it for me. But, surely, too easy to be the answer to it all. But then . . . it was! I gave a little gasp of joy and disbelief when I clicked on my little BookSmart icon and it happily opened and showed me my books -- just as I'd left them on our last parting!

That's a long boring post, but I am literally sighing in relief. And I am so happy that Mike and I aren't going to leave one another now for any customer service representatives or radio personalities.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Chickens in the Mist

Well, that's a ridiculous title.

But really, chickens, Nancy? Again??

It isn't my fault really. It is just that there was a lot of conversation spurred by my last chicken post and my possibly changing my blog name to something more chickeny -- Chickens Chickens Everywhere? Duck Duck Chicken? Don't be Chicken? Why'd the Chicken Cross the Road?

Anyway, it seemed funny to me that I truly could have a blog with a title having to do with chickens because, for crying out loud, if I counted, I probably have more posts involving chickens than any other girl who isn't actually entitled to write about chickens (you know, like how a chicken farmer is).

I don't live on a farm.

I don't even live in the country.

I live in the city . . . or maybe the suburbs? Or maybe something else altogether. I've never really been certain about the exact meaning of words like city and suburbs and urban -- I just have vague ideas sometimes involving houses, and generally involving no large fields, and occasionally involving lots of traffic and tall buildings. I mean the place I live is called a city, but that doesn't seem like that means I can just go ahead and say, "I live in the city." And yet, I feel like I can say, "I live in a city." Maybe that is it? The "the" makes it, not necessarily one particular city, but definitely a super busy big city? Be careful with that "the" and you are OK, is it?

Well then. Weird that I live in a city and somehow always seem to be associating with chickens. I don't think of myself as someone with chickens. Of course, I don't think of myself as someone with loads of kids either. And yet, certain things just are. In fact, my parents lived in a city, and they never even purchased chickens OR got chickens as white elephant gifts, but one year when I was younger, a chicken came to live with us there just the same. It was a stray. A stray chicken. Only we called it The Racing Chicken. Maybe if I'd been reading my life in a book I would have seen the sudden appearance of that chicken as foreshadowing -- I would have known more chickens were yet to enter my life. But, at the time, we just wondered where on earth a stray chicken came from, and why it decided we were home. We called it The Racing Chicken because we only ever saw it streaking full speed across our yard. Maybe it was being chased. Maybe it just liked to run. Once I went into the garage to get something out of our big freezer out there. Suddenly I was startled by screeching and meowing and then a big cat fell from the rafters above and tore out of the garage like a bat out of you know where. I was stunned for a moment, but when I looked up, I saw The Racing Chicken -- standing firm and proud on the rafters above -- eyes blazing, wings held firm. He was a noble breed of chicken I am sure. Only, he wasn't a he I guess because later, when The Racing Chicken had either met an untimely end, or moved on to greener pastures, we found a large clutch of eggs up in those rafters. (And no, they wouldn't have been baby chicks. I always have to tell everyone about how there needs to be a rooster, and frankly, it gets a little awkward).

Anyway, it's no wonder we keep having chickens. Mike thinks they are the perfect animal (actually, it might have been pigs he said were the perfect animal), but he has definitely said that they are the perfect thing to have for our food storage -- when hard times hit, won't we be happy to have fresh eggs galore every day (and I did read somewhere once that eggs are a near perfect food -- from a survival standpoint -- you'd only need to supplement with like one vitamin to have your diet A-OK). So, Mike says, when I feel conflicted about meshing chickens with my life, I can just view them as food storage. Of course, Mike also says our "food storage" ought to be 12 matching rifles. Shotguns? Oh he'd be so disappointed in me for not remembering which it is. I'm not sure if it is so we can protect our food storage or so we can steel other's food storage. I like to think it is only to protect our own -- of course, if the guns are the only food storage we've got, it seems to leave us with the less noble alternative. Oh wait. There won't just be the guns. There'll be the chickens! Of course, we must protect the chickens! That will put our guns to the very noblest of work.

This is what happens when Mike leaves me and won't come home to me for too many days. I get all typey crazy. Honey? Where are you? Well, I know where you are, but, come home to me, and I'll quit writing all this nonsense! I'll go back to writing nice sensible posts about the joys of motherhood and of being your wife. But, maybe you like this nonsense. Of course you do. You like everything I ever say or do. Don't tell me different or the chicken gets it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Speaking of Chickens . . .

Today Penny asked me, "Why did the chicken cross the road?" I don't know that she's had any experience with joke telling thus far, so I wasn't sure if she even meant to tell a joke or had just heard the question posed by a sibling and now wanted an answer from me.

"Umm. Was it to get to the other side?" I asked.

She nodded but seemed to be thinking. Then added, "'Cause it seed its mommy."
That maybe doesn't make for a spectacular joke, but I thought that was pretty good two year old reasoning for just why a chicken might want to cross a road.
Also, she loves to play with Daisy and Goldie's old "Little People" sets. She'll spend large chunks of any given day having them do whatever they do and setting them all up in their cars or house. Only, they aren't "Little People," they are "cool people." I don't have the foggiest idea where that came from, and it was some time before I even registered that she was calling them that. "I wanna play with my cool people, Mom," she'll say. Or, I'll hear two of the figures conversing and one will say to the other, "Are you a cool people too?"

She's very shy around people outside of our immediate family. Even other little kids. But here she is quite a hilarious little thing.
She often torments Goldie. I don't know why exactly. Maybe it is that Abe and Daisy see her as little enough that they don't get too upset when she gets into their things, etc. (unless of course she breaks something), but Goldie nearly has a heart attack anytime Penny goes in her room or touches her things. This seems to make Penny LOVE to do those very things. She is forever sneaking up behing Goldie and grabbing her blanket or stuffed animal and running off with it as Goldie wails.
Whenever I ask her to get something for me (say a diaper for Jesse, or a blanket out of my room), she'll bring it back and say, "Will this do?"
She has a little game she plays with Mike where he meows like a sweet little kitten and she walks up to him asking if he wants some food (proffering her little hands which are cupped into a bowl shape). Then, as she gets close, the kitty turns to a tiger and begins to roar. Penny runs off screaming but then the fierce tiger penitantly begins some sweet meowing again and Penny is back offering the kitty something to eat.

Funny little girl.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Chicken Lives in our Window Well and Other Stories

Actually, there aren't any "other stories." It was just as I typed "A chicken lives in our window well," it sounded nice to add, "and other stories." Doesn't that seem like a catchy title? One for a book -- a collection of memoirs or short stories perhaps? In fact, wait a minute here, maybe I should rename my blog that! Should I? I mean "Nancy's Thoughts"?? Honestly. BOR-ING. "Oh, I'm going to go see if Nancy has posted any new thoughts on her blog about her thoughts -- what is she thinking in her thoughts anyway? I guess I'll have to go to Nancy's Thoughts to see." Contrast that with, "I wonder if there are any new stories -- any other stories on that Chicken in the Window Well blog." This definitely warrants considering.

But, moving on to the chicken in the window well. Yes, one lives there. Those of you who have begun reading my blog recently or who don't know much about my years as Mike's wife might be thinking something like, "Whhaa?? Cr-A-zy!" The rest of you are thinking, "Yawn. Big surprise."

My sister and her husband brought this particular chicken to a family white elephant gift exchange. Their neighbors were going to cook the bird up because it was being picked on by all the other hens. Hen pecked. Huh. I just remembered that term. Well, now I know why it's a term. We didn't choose the gift, mind you. It was just the natural assumption that Mike would take the chicken home in the end. I mean, look how scared every one else was of it.

Anyway, it wasn't an ideal situation. Our dog was VERY interested in our chicken. And having him immediately kill it when it had just been rescued from the stew pot would make for quite the bitter irony.

Luckily, Mike's aunt lent us her little breeder (I think that's what it's called). It's basically a large wire cage with a little hen house at one end so the hen can hang out in her little hen house and then strut about her tiny fenced in section of the world totally dog free. Only our hen wasn't planning on strutting anywhere at any time for anybody. I thought surely she was dead all winter long. She never left her tiny house. Mike tried to put her food at the end of the breeder so she'd have to go out that far, but ended up moving it closer for fear he was starving her. I don't know. Maybe she preferred a bunch of other hens pecking at her all the live long day to one clumsy large dog breathing his slobbery breath down her neck every time she stepped out for a bit of fresh air (even though his breath was now separated by some nice safe fencing). She wouldn't lay an egg for nothin' and I just kept thinking it wouldn't be the end of the world if she'd give up the old ghost (well, technically it would be the end of the world for her, I guess).
Anywho. I don't know how long she was down the window well before I knew. Probably awhile. I'm sure Mike knew as he was the one caring for the creature. Maybe he'd even told me how she got there. I do recall getting Penny off of the trampoline one day and her struggling to not go in the house because she wanted to look at the chicken and she kept pointing to the window well, but I just thought, "Silly, there's no chicken down there." Actually, I don't know that I even thought that. I don't think I even thought anything. Certainly not, "What? Is the chicken living in the window well now?" I think it just skimmed right off me much like someone asking for ice-cream right before dinner might -- not even a thought worthy of my pausing to consider.
Eventually, I must have asked or been told that the chicken was there. I don't know why she hasn't been moved back to the breeder. But before you go getting all up in arms about animal rights and how our chicken should go for a daily walk and only be chained up so many hours of the day and have time in the house and snacks for good behavior, let me tell you this: Our chicken loves her window well. In fact, she's THRIVING in the window well. A few happy nights in the window well and she started laying eggs EVERY day. Sometimes I hear her down there pecking the glass loudly with her beak. She probably sees her reflection and thinks it's some other hen, and she's probably thrilled to death to be hen pecking a chicken back for a change. Think how her confidence must be growing as that sissy chicken in the glass can't even manage to get one peck in. Besides, it's a pretty large window well.
So, now Mike goes down to the basement and, opening the window, reaches out to take care of old henny every day. (Side note: I recently realized that "everyday" all as one word does not mean every single day. It's like "boring old common" -- so, I'm glad I remembered to do it right in the last sentence, otherwise I would have been saying something like, "That chicken's feathers aren't one bit exciting. They're just so everyday. She's just such an everyday chicken").
But, this all came up because Mike is out of town, and I'm in charge of animal care and feeding whilst he's away, and it just felt a little weird going down to the basement to feed the chicken in the window well tonight. But, that's one of the fun things about my life. It's not so everyday as one's life might be if they didn't have things like chickens in their window wells.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Preparing for the Worst

This was the conversation I heard in the car last night.

D: Alright, Goldie, so listen to this, and tell me what you would do: Say someone wrapped a goblin up in one of those papers that you wrap a caramel in.

A: Daisy, he'd be so tiny.

D: No, he's wrapped in a huge wrapping paper, Abe. So, Goldie, you buy it and open it and you think it's a candy but instead it's a goblin. What would you do?

Me: Is there a right answer to this question?

G: I'd get his gold!

D: Goldie! That's a leprechaun! Not a goblin!

G: I'd just wrap him back up --

D: No, Gold! You couldn't! He's already all unwrapped.

G: I'd just throw him outside . . . ?

A: Daisy, just tell us what the answer is.

D: Abe, I don't know the answer!

I guess that's why she was asking, but none of us know the answer. I can't decide if it is good she brought this scenario up so we can keep thinking until we are prepared with the best possible solution (should the candy/goblin mix up occur), or if we should just forget about it and hope against all hopes that it never happens to us. I know it's always best to be prepared, but it's just so hard to prepare for every possible eventuality. I feel overwhelmed just thinking about it! I still haven't figured out exactly how I will save all of my five children should we happen to crash into the middle of a lake (yes, that is one of my worst most dreadful fears. I often find myself thinking if we'd make it with two kids holding around my neck and another in one arm and two on their own). Now I have to figure out goblins? What if a pixie shows up in a cookie box? What if a warthog comes in the mail? And what are pixies anyway? Are they good or bad? Maybe I want one to show up. Woo-wee. Lots to think about.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What I Know About Abe

Abe just said, "Mom, maybe in awhile can I look at your blog? Or maybe could you do a post about me? Like about what I like and stuff. It doesn't have to be very long. I just sometimes like to see what you know about me." Then, for dramatic emphasis, he added (while shaking his head), "My own mother -- hardly knows anything about me."

Well, Abe, I do know this. I know that getting you to make a normal face for a picture is no easy task. There we go. Was that so hard?
I also know that if I ask you to take a picture for me:You then think it is hilarious to keep snapping photos while I reach for the camera back and make both pleading and threatening faces:I know you think school is the pits -- even though your quite good at it. I know you almost never forget to feed your dog in the mornings -- even though he is very big and very jumpy when wanting his eats. I know you do not like when Penny or Jesse destroy your Lego creations, but you do like when Jesse keeps laughing and throwing his stuffed monkey out of his crib for you to get and give back to him at night . . . and then, you don't like it so much when he KEEPS throwing it out and then crying when you won't play the game of getting it for him over and over and over (because maybe you want to go to sleep finally). And actually, I know that it is not really that you want to go to sleep that tires you of the game. It is that you want to read quietly for awhile next to your little night light before going to sleep. I know that you love to read informative books like about how the FBI came to be, or about creatures that nobody loves (because they are creepy creatures). I know that you love to be nice and invite your sisters to come join you on the trampoline or in making a fort or some such . . . and then you like it less when they all start crying their little eyes out about who knows what. I know you do not like one tiny bit to run errands -- ever. I know you like when you beat me at PIG. I know that you know when I am feeling stressed out almost better than anyone, and if I'm mad and snappy with everyone, you tell me you're sorry I'm stressed and ask if there is anything you can do for me. How do you know that when you're so little? I know you love camping and outdoor adventures. I know you love to wear socks. You always have socks on. Usually even to sleep in. No wonder I have to buy new ones so often. I know you love jeans and always prefer them over the tan and brown pants that I tell you are cool. I know your area of most stubborness has to do with wearing coats. Your dad thinks you need to wear one; you think you don't. I know you are pretty much the only one in the family who always does what I ask the first time I ask. I know lots more stuff about you that could make this very very long, but mostly I know that you are one super awesome soul, and I know I love you SO MUCH!!!!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Little Something I Like to Call,

"Goldie has a sucker and I don't."

Friday, March 5, 2010

Crazy Little Dinosaur Kids

Why won't you post?, you're wondering. Well, who knows, but I'll tell you something that is neither here nor there. It is this, I love this book:There is no real story line or wonderful plot. It is just this awesome little dinosaur roaring his way through life. Roaring through talking grown ups, roaring through his dinner, roaring through bathtime. We checked it out at the library awhile back, and I loved it so much that when we were walking down an isle at Target the other day and Penny yelled, "The dinosaur book!" I had to immediately buy it (even though I probably could have bought it for much cheaper on Amazon, but at the cost of waiting!).
It reminds me not just of kids in general, but of some of my favorite crazy kids. Do you know the ones? Every now and then one of my siblings or friends has a kid who is just a tiny little trouble making wild tornado, and I find myself always secretly liking them a little extra.

Typing this made me think of one of my favorite things to see this past season. As I am driving back from dropping my kids off at school, I inevitably see one or two kids running to school along the snow drifts on the sides of the road. Yes the sidewalks are nicely shoveled; yes there is a clean shoulder on the side of the road; yes the bell is probably about to ring and they are rushing because they are about to be late . . . and yet . . . crunch crunch, sink, crunch crunch, sink they go. I see it and I laugh at the little souls making their way to school the least efficient way possible, and it somehow impresses upon me the whole perfect wonderfulness of kids.
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