Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cotton Harvest, or What Happened to October and November

Whew!  Weber Farms has made it through another year! 

Harvest season was incredibly busy this year.  I'm not sure why it felt busier than usual, but this is the first one with us raising four children.  (Blame it on the baby!)  Picking cotton, digging and combining peanuts, cutting soybeans, shredding cotton stalks and planting winter wheat, all in fields near and far.  It was a whole lot of work, even with a hired hand.  Fortunately, I don't have the skill set required to operate heavy farm machinery, so I was free to run the household.  It's OK.  We all agree that I make a better cook, and Jason makes a better farmer. 

I took these pictures during one beautiful afternoon at the field by Uncle Calvin's house.  Because the operation was so close, I brought the kids and a cookie break on the golf cart. 

Jack lived in this muscle shirt this summer.  He would still be wearing it now, in December, had I not removed it from circulation.

We hung out with Jason as he finished packing a cotton module. 
This is our future farmer.  Jack's heart is full of tractors.  Seriously.  I just took him on our first ever mama/son date (he wanted Hardee's), and he talked about farm equipment while he ate French fries.  Yep, tractors and what it might take to convert his buddy Kaden into an Auburn fan.

 Henry loved the noise and action of the module builder.
This module was almost finished.  It takes about 4-5 dumps from the cotton picker's basket to fill it from the ground up, but each dump has to be stomped down by that hydraulic presser thingie to make room.  It's kind of like putting your t-shirts into your messy dresser drawer.

Jason unrolled the heavy tarp on top of the module, then Uncle Calvin drove the tractor and module builder away to reposition for the next module. 

Jason hitched a ride while he pulled the side of the tarp.  He makes this rough job look easy.

See, nuthin to it. 

Almost finished--just have to cinch the tarp strap and mark the module for Weber Farms! favorite part!  Cotton graffiti. 

Owen had been getting a ride in the picker while his grandpa was operating it.  He has started building modules, under the tutelage of his daddy, and is pretty good at it!
We stayed long enough to watch the first dump into the next module. 

 And then it was time to go make supper and change a diaper.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Number Eight Racetrack Cake

  What kind of cake does an eight-year-old boy need?  Why, a racetrack cake, naturally.

Poor Owen didn't have a choice this year.  His mother had this one in her head for a long time.  I remembered a picture of a racetrack cake in one of my mom's cake decorating books that I used to page through as a young dreamer.  It was a little simpler than this one, and the car bodies were oval-shaped, fake-fruit-flavored, hard candies with Smarties for wheels.  The good old Minute Stop on 31 had Werther's hard caramels, Skittles and a friendly cashier.

The concept cars needed to be explained to the kids, but after they understood, they were all picking out which one was theirs.

I used a tube pan to bake two cakes, then joined them together to make a figure eight.  I had to curve off an edge of one of the cakes so they wouldn't look like two awkward round cakes attempting to mingle.  I frosted the sides and most of the top with a chocolate butter frosting, then piped on a road of gray-tinted decorator icing.  I smoothed the bumps in the road with a metal spatula dipped in hot water, then added Cocoa Puffs and granola for rocks. The most fun was free-handing the white road paint and lettering.  What a treacherous roadway.
two angel food cake pans = racetrack
Owen loves his cake.  Here he is, complete with campout dirt.

And he liked the cupcakes I brought to his class, because they looked like they came from the store.  (The deli trays helped a lot.)

Stripe your icing tint right inside your decorating bag, add white frosting and pipe away!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Happy Fall, Y'all

Fall is here!  The weather and sunshine are so beautiful in lower Alabama, I wish I could hit the pause button.  Temperatures are in the upper 70s/low 80s during the day, the humidity has tapered off, and the angle of the sun just makes my heart ache with gorgeousness.  My house just had to reflect my heart during this season, so I did some fall decorating.

 Here's my felt leaf garland.  I love its cozy, crafty feel.  It was fun and extremely easy to make.  You can even cut while you watch recorded sessions of The Voice.  I might know something about that. 

And my new fall-inspired dish display, featuring cake plates and gravy boats, because aren't cake and gravy two foods worth celebrating?
I tacked some fabric from my stash to the back of my cupboard, an idea I've had for a long time.  It was a pain to do, but worth the irritation of ironing, folding, and sweating it out with thumbtacks.  However, remind me to kick myself; I love it so much, I think I've set a new standard.

Hope you're enjoying your fall season, no matter where your corner of the world!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More Words from the Kids

We are in the middle of harvest season here, and if I had a swivel joint on my neck, my head would be swirling in dizzying rounds trying to keep up with all my responsibilities and distractions.  I've got MOPS lists, house cleaning lists, activity lists, packing lists, shopping lists, checkbook balancing, exercise plans, and menu ideas all spinning in my mind.  Nag, nag, nag.  My internal merry-go-round of nagging reminders.  Sometimes it's motivating, and other times it moves me to sit in the recliner with a remote. 

So to give me a break from the never-ending whirl of activity, I'm posting some things the kids have said recently.  The current collection is heavy with Jack's words, but the kid is four, and he talks a lot.  Enjoy. 

while shopping at Walmart:  "When I get big, my wife can go shopping by herself."

about an extreme sour-flavored freezer pop:  "It tastes like the hospital smell."

on Quinn's second birthday, after Helen remembered she had eaten Cheetos in the hospital room:  "Yes.  And if Henry dies, and we have to go back a have another one, I'm gonna eat Lay's!  BBQ!" (Guess who got BBQ potato chips the next week?)

chatting with Ms. B, the nurse: 
O:  Why do you have that?  (bandage on her inner elbow)
B:  Because Ms. Nettie took my blood.  I have to get checked for my cholesterol and for diabetes.
O:  immediately Do you have diabetes?
B:  Yes.  I do have diabetes.
O:  Do you have type I or type II?
B:  I have type II.
O:  Well, you know, you can just exercise and move around a lot, and it will get better. swinging arms to demonstrate his point  (Guess who wanted to dig a hole and crawl in it?)

after hearing a segment about life in Uganda at church, prayed:  "and please be with the people in Africa.  Help them get through this (dry) season.  Help it to rain, and help them to get hoses and sprinklers and pipes and stuff."

"hummingbird theeder"

while watching men's Olympic water polo:  "Is that called a fasto?"

praying:  "And please help me to never, ever think about fire...lit on our house."

"Mommy, will you be a gentle-girl and get the door for me and Owen?"

when hearing classical music:  "Is this a sad song?"  20 minutes later:  "Did someone die in this song?"

about his imaginary fields in the guest room:  "Mom, mine and Owen's crops are dying....because the weeds are taking their power."

about the car we were following:  "Are they strangers unto us?"

about the fighting in Syria:  "Mom, maybe we should send our policemen over there."

about my baking:  "What is that nice and fresh smell?"

praying:  "Thank you that I could find a toy that I couldn't found."

during his tractor ride turn:  "I'm glad Helen got to go last.  Owen told me I had to go last...and...I saw you in the tractor and I thought, 'Hey!  That could be me going second.'"

about praying:  "I told God what to do and He didn't do it."

excited about the bowling alley:  ".....and all the people who love God AND who love Satan can go bowling there!" 

"I just wanted to sing to Henry so he knows about God."

bragging to siblings after another tractor ride:  "I ask-ted Daddy LOTS of questions, and I even got a bunch of drinks...FROM...THE....WATER JUG!!!"

praying:  "God, I think you are awesome for making the dirt that I love."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Get Your Henry Fix

At 8 months, Henry remains bright-eyed, squeezable, kissable and ticklish, all the good qualities a baby should possess.

He is not crawling.  He can hold a hands/knees position for a few minutes, until he collapses in a scream fest.  He wiggles and pivots on his belly.  He likes to stand with help, but has no earthly idea of balance, or the importance of holding on to a stable point.  He stiffens his legs when I try to set him on the floor, so that he cannot be placed into a sitting position.

Usually if he is well rested and well fed, he is a very pleasant baby.  He loves his thumb, which is the cutest thing ever.

But lately the cute little man has been screaming his head off if he is not being held securely in my arms or is not feeding himself graham crackers.  Or so it seems.

 See?  He can sit with toys, by himself, and be happy.
And again.

He is getting to be a chunk, so holding him can take a toll on my back.  We weigh him most scientifically.  We use the step-on-the-bathroom-scales-with-and-then-without-the-child method.  He's between 19 and 20 pounds, according to my last estimation.  That's about 40 cheeseburgers.  (Actually, I have no idea how many cheeseburgers he weighs.  It depends on if you prefer pickles.)  Forgive me, it's late, and cheeseburgers are starting to sound good. 

Speaking of food and eating, Henry has eight teeth.  I'm waiting for all this screaming of late to produce more teeth.  Always nice to blame fussiness on teething!  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Spray Paint + Chandelier

I did it!

(More accurately, I asked my husband to do it, and he did it.)

My dining room has a new and improved look in the lighting department.  I scooped up my sister-in-law's cast-off brassy-gold chandelier at her yard sale, and bought a can of the highest quality spray paint.  Jason is much more better and fantastic-er at spray painting than I am, because he is picky about over-spray and tiny details such as I cannot find the time or inclination to notice.  He kindly agreed to paint it for me, after the project had sat in the garage for a long enough creative incubation time.  Nope, that's not procrastination!  It's allowing sufficient time for creativity to hatch.

I cleaned out the hardware store's rack of at least one style of chandelier bulbs, so not all ten of them match.  Maybe a little tacky, but when the lights are on, I dare you to notice.

I would post a picture of the whole thing, but I haven't figured out how to get a good shot of it.  Here is where you can insert a helpful comment. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Quinn's second birthday

September 9 would have been our sweet baby Quinn's second birthday.  Her special day fell on a Sunday this year, and we had plans with my in-laws for lunch and with a group of friends for supper.  So we took a family day on Saturday.  And instead of going off somewhere and spending money that wasn't there, we chose to stay home and enjoy each other.  Jason and the kids went fishing at the pond.  I had been planning on making pizza for supper, the kids' favorite, but we realized halfway through the day that they wanted hamburgers.  Because I was in no mood to go grocery shopping, I defrosted some miniature meatloaves and we grilled.

Once again, I had this general dread all throughout the day, and a sick, heavy feeling in my stomach.  Last year, I concentrated all my heavy feelings and blamed them on the butterfly cake, but now I know that's what grief does to you.  It can knock the wind right out of you.  It can make you dizzy.  It can leave you standing in the kitchen, paralyzed by decisions about handwashing the special dishes or piling them into the dishwasher because who the heck cares anymore. 

Sunday afternoon, we stopped by her grave site to lay down some fresh flowers.
How can this be so beautiful?  Her life was only six hours.  Six hours!  Yes, two years later, I can still be horrified by what happened.  I'm learning how to talk about her without crying, how to introduce my complete family to those who need to know without needlessly shocking them.  But I can very stubbornly resist allowing my heart to go back to those raw moments when our family was headed in a particular direction, and then we were not.  I don't like to look at pictures too often.  Her sweet things are tucked away in a box, and I don't want to open it.  Even though God in his mercy is healing my heart, and I have peace about the big picture, the anger and pain are very real when I'm missing my daughter.

My second daughter.  Helen's sister.  My girl. 

The other day, I found myself praying out loud that God would provide Helen another sister.  I have no idea why that prayer came out, because we are sooooo done having kids.  I was mourning for Helen's loss all over again.  I sponsored a Ugandan girl through Compassion International, but she's not a sister. 

It's just that when I see my kids, I see a hole where Quinn is supposed to be.  Which is why I cannot get over these pictures.  I do not understand how this happened.  I'm not sure I want to understand, so if you have some technical answer to how the sun's angle played with my camera lens, I don't want to hear it.  I just want to treasure the mystery and miracle of this rainbow.

Friday, September 14, 2012

How the First Day of School Changed My Life

 Guess who was beside herself excited to go to school this year? 
Dear Helen Avery, proud first grader!  She could hardly stand it this summer, she was jonesing for the whole school experience.  She was doing her best to figure out classroom rules before she got there, ever so determinedly careful to never disobey them and to always have the right answer.  Yes, always the right answer.  She was concerned about NOT doing something wrong, and having perfect work.  And checking and double-checking for confirmation over her perfect work.  Arrgghhh!  It's like me all over again, in miniature form.  On one hand, I kind of like this insight into my true mini-me.  But on the other hand, it helps me see the negative side of my personality.  The bottom line about Helen is that she just wants to be noticed and affirmed. 

And then there is Owen, headed into the second grade, school pro by now.  He didn't seem to be too bothered that he and his sister were going to be in the same classroom.  They attend a small private school, where two grades are grouped together in each classroom, very similar to the school I attended. 
 Owen and Helen have a sweet relationship, but they sure know how to disagree too.  Lately on school mornings, Owen has been repeating, "Remember, Helen!  DON'T talk too much!"  From what I gather, I suspect that Helen hasn't been over-talking in the classroom to the annoyance of everyone, but that Owen is personally bothered, as a brother.  I told him that while they were at school, he was going to have to ignore the fact that she was his sister, and treat her like a friend instead.  It seemed to resonate.  Snort.
 Here is Helen on her first day of school.
Please get me out of here, Mom!
 Doesn't that look make you want to scoop her up and murmur sweet things in her ear? "Sweet-Baby, I'm so sorry I brought you here. It's OK.  There, there.  Let's go home and make pie.  You can stay with Mommy"?  Nah.  Me neither.

Owen Darrell, seasoned student.
Please get out of here, Mom.
 Jack Herman, poor, mistaken little brother who thought he was going to spend all the rest of his days with Daddy at work, now that those older kids are gone.
 On the first day of school, Jack pulled on his favorite work outfit, fully convinced he was going to work with Jason.  While we had been prepping him for life without Owen and Helen, we gave him Owen's hand-me-down lunch box, and told him that some days he might be able to go with Daddy in the tractor.  Poor kid only got the good part of that message. It took a few tears and a few days of bad attitude, but we've achieved a good feel around the house while Owen and Helen are away.

I am still in disbelief over how much more work I can get done without all my kids here during the day.  Jack plays really well by himself, and Henry is generally sweet and content.  And let's not forget how easy the grocery store has now become!  In fact, it's almost a treat to go there.  The little boys are so cute in their steering wheel cart.  I get nice comments now instead of odd looks.  It's funny how tasks have a perceived level of difficulty that flexes with the number of kids you have.  
And by, the way, this is Helen after pick up on the first day of school.  She loved it, and was ready to go back again.  Just like her mama.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Great Grandparents

 Our kids are fortunate to have grandparents and great grandparents who love them and enjoy them.  Great Grandma Weber lives within walking and/or golf cart distance of us, and we get to see her regularly. 

One quiet evening, she popped in to return a vase.  I happened to be nursing Henry at the time.  She didn't hear me call out to her, so she went outside to the kids who were on the swing set.  Imagine my surprise when I saw her up on the first level of the play house!  I grabbed my camera, but at her nimble 87 years of age, she was down before I could get hard-and-fast proof.

We saw my Grandpa Gingerich while we were in northern Indiana this summer.  It was great to see Henry in his arms for the first time.

Henry also got to meet my Grandma Bontrager in Indiana.  She's a natural with babies. 

She wanted us to stop by her house before we left so she could give Henry his sock monkey and the other kids some treats for the trip. 

Grandma has sewn oodles of sock monkeys, and they are all over her house--in plants and hanging on stair railings.  She has given one to each of her great grandchildren, and now is making them to sell.  She has made all sizes, with the exception of George the giant one, which Aunt Julia bought for her.

I really can't find the words to say how grateful I am for my grandparents and their godly influence on their family's lives.  I have so many good memories of them, and it's sad to me that my kids can never know them the way that I do.  I can only hope to leave a similar legacy for my children and grandchildren.    

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Four-Year-Old and his Construction Cake

 What can I say about this small boy child?  He delighteth in heavy machinery.

So when he turned 4 in late June, planning his birthday cake was a cinch. 

I'm not sure I've ever had more fun decorating a cake!  Everything came together in the perfect creative storm.  I think I stopped to ooh and ahh more than I actually decorated. 
My sister in law found a multi-pack of brand-spankin-new John Deere toys at Tractor Supply.  I cleaned up Jack's sheep's foot packer, and we borrowed Grandma's excavator.
First, I outlined the number four using a straight edge.  Then I laid the crushed Oreo road.  The powdery sand is nothing more than smashed pretzels.  Cocoa Puffs made small boulders.  We couldn't find plastic traffic cones, so I whipped out a paring knife and a carrot.  So much fun!

My real challenge involved my *ahem* pride.  I wanted the cake to look perfect for our party guests, but sonny boy couldn't keep his hands off of it.  Oreo crumbs were spilling onto the table and floor, the road grader was not remaining in its neat and tidy place, and my nerves were fraying.  After a long moment, during which I realized that his little boy days are going fast, I decided it was OK to let the birthday kid play with his cake.  After all, he probably won't still be fascinated by silly things like cake by the time he is 12.  Better grab his heart while the grabbing is still easy!

Happy Birthday long past, Jack!