City mouse, country mouse

When it comes to race, religion, color and creed, our kids are fairly open-minded.

They are nonjudgemental. I’d hazard to say that they are “colorblind,” concerning race and ethnicity.

(Let’s hope they retain these views.)

Now that I’ve logged these niceties, I must add the following:

The kids are not without bias. They discriminate against a group of people.

Who’s caught in their crosshairs? Whom do they stereotype? Whom do they disparage?

City folk.

You people who deign to dwell in a townhouse.

Even you guys who own a quarter-acre in the suburbs.

You’re guilty as well.



Martin and I first learned of this disparity last year, while we were all staying in a hotel in Washington, DC. It was an unusually warm December day, and kids of all ages were careening down a steep, grassy hill that adjoined the hotel courtyard.

Cayden led the charge down the slope and when he reached the bottom, he shouted to his sister: “Hey, Hadley!  DON’T KNOCK OVER THE CITY KIDS! They don’t know how to FALL like farm kids, and their parents will FREAK out!”

Okay! Got it!” Hadley shouted in response, suspiciously eyeing the kids beside her.

Martin and I exchanged looks. And we slouched down in our seats.

Just like that, a stereotype was born. City kids versus country kids. And our children continue to feed it, vocalizing apparent inadequacies of urban dwelling individuals.

In case you’re keeping track, urbanites are fragile, weak, easily injured and incapable of handling stressful situations. 

Last summer — after I encountered a deer with my car — I told the kids about the accident. And I mentioned that another driver was equally unlucky: she also struck the same deer with her car, and was unhinged by the event.

Hadley nodded at me knowingly. “That other driver,” she said. “Was she…you know… city folk?”


The irony of all of this? Our kids aren’t as country as they think. We don’t own a working farm. Our kids can’t drive a tractor or milk a cow. Their agriculture roots are thin.

Still, they are loyal to rural life.

A few weeks ago, I had to run some errands in downtown DC, and Cayden and Hadley tagged along. We’d barely crossed a street before it became clear that the kids were out of their element. I shepherded them between traffic and yelled as they strayed outside the crosswalk.

“Jeez!” I said, grabbing their collars. “You country kids can barely cross the street! You wouldn’t survive a day in the city!”

“Huh,” Cayden snorted. “Who would want to?”


The Yardstick


Poolesville Day, an annual community event, has become the yardstick with which I measure the kids’ growth.

We’ve attended these festivities for several years; often, I’ve brought my camera. And the images I’ve collected provide a barometer of age.

The pictures are a better measure than Christmas or Halloween memories, because the exact same setting is reproduced each year.

That’s the constant about Poolesville Day: it’s held the same weekend each year, with the same activities, stationed in the same place each time.

Inevitably, Cayden, Had and Brynn are drawn to certain attractions, and I document these events. The same rope walk, same backdrop, same kid, just a different year.

It is the ultimate measuring stick.

Toddler Hadley:



Hadley now:



Brynn then:



Brynn now:



I prefer candid photos, but in the future, I imagine urging the kids to recreate previous experiences — scaling the climbing wall or clambering atop a tractor when they’re older. Maybe when they’re teens.

If they’re still talking to me then.


The winter weather wager


In recent months, Martin and I made a big decision:

We are sending the barn to college. So to speak.

Actually, we are replacing the barn roof, which will cost as much as a year’s tuition and fees at a private college.

What else could we fund with this kind of cash? A new car, an awesome kitchen renovation, a first-class trip around the world. Hell, Martin could buy a fleet of those army trucks he trolls for on Craigslist.

Instead, we’re funding an improvement for the horses, cats and occasional opossum. (See, I can joke now. I’m beyond the nausea-inducing sticker shock phase. Over the summer one contractor quoted twice the price of previous estimates, and I got a little woozy. Do you need to sit down? he asked, sympathetically. Our roofs are guaranteed for 100 years, he added. What did I care? I’d be dead then!)

Speaking of 100 years, that’s the age of the barn, and — aside from a few spots — the roof is original as well. Hence the need for replacement. Viewed from a distance, the roof doesn’t look too tragic. But the leaks are beyond patching. It’s not like a colander with visible holes. Instead, imagine cupping water in your hand: eventually it seeps through your fingers. That’s our roof, dripping at the seams.

After a decade of patch jobs, we are committed to renovation. The big question is “when”?

Our roofer can start in mid-November, a time that taunts winter storms. Precipitation and frigid temps could push the project to Christmas or beyond.

And our contractor mentioned another speed bump. “You know about the wedding season, right?”

I knew that our roofer is Amish. I didn’t know that Amish weddings are held strictly from November to early December, after the harvest, but before winter sets in. (And typically, weddings are celebrated on Tuesdays and Thursdays… now that’s a bite from the work week…)

So, late-fall construction is fraught with what-ifs. The alternative: a springtime build.

In the spring, the project would take just a couple weeks, avoiding winter and matrimonial distractions.

But a five month delay gambles on a season’s worth of bad weather. Any significant rain or snow would be problematic. And this is a possible El Nino year.

So that’s the debate. Do we wager that El Nino’s a bust and wait until spring? Or do we bet on a belated winter and an uneventful wedding season?

We’ve got a few days to flip a coin.


See, it’s nice from afar…