kids

Bugs Prompt Blog Break

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“Wow, I’ve never seen a grownup cry,” Hadley remarked, as I sat sobbing near a mystery leak that dripped with determination on the dining room floor and buckled the ceiling above.

An unidentified plumbing problem isn’t a cry-worthy crisis. But this incident was the final chapter in a series of cumulative, distressing events.

It kicked off last Tuesday when we discovered that the girls had lice. We learned this just as a strong summer storm knocked out the power. No electricity means no water, so we were powerless to wash sheets and treat the girls’ hair. Solution: armed with delousing products, we bunked in a hotel and attacked the problem. It was after midnight when we finally finished, but we’d made progress. Or so we’d thought.

The next day the power was restored but the washing machine broke, stalling efforts to sanitize bedding and clothes. The repairman estimated a seven-day wait for the replacement part. 

Next up? Both trucks broke down and with PigPen in the shop (amassing a $2,400 bill for deer damage repair) — we were squeezed with one vehicle.

And Friday afternoon — yet another day perched on the porch, sweating in the sun as I combed microscopic nits from the girls’ hair (making little progress) — Martin placed a cocktail in front of me. “Drink this,” he said.

I get it… I’ve been picking through their locks, strand by strand, for hours, I thought. And everything has gone wrong. “I’ll drink it when I’m done,” I said, swiping my sweaty bangs and hunching over Hadley’s bowed head.

“Really, take a few sips now,” he said, “because I need to tell you that there’s a leak in the dining room. And I’m going to have to cut open the ceiling to get at it.”

And there you have it: broken cars, broken washer, broken house, insect infested kids. Emotional breakdown.

Fortunately, unabated crying spurs family to action. On Saturday, my mother took the kids to be professionally deloused (yes, such services exist) and Martin secured a part to fix the washing machine and the Big Rig. All this while I played four straight softball games in league tournament. (We advanced to the quarterfinals, but were eliminated the next morning.)

No matter. After last week’s misery I can report today: the kids are fixed, ditto the washing machine and Pig Pen. It’s time to resume the blog and other elements of normalcy.

As for the accompanying tent photo: in an effort to limit lice spread, we booted the kids out of the house to sleep. But when we issued the go-ahead order to return to their room, they refused to vacate the campsite. They’ve slept in the tent for four nights running. The chair also pictured was employed for safety; Sunday evening Martin tethered the tent to the chair during a violent, gusty thunderstorm that threatened to send the camp structure airborne.

Remarkably, the kids opted to sleep in the tent, through the storm. The next morning I met a bed-headed Brynn, pawing through the cereal boxes in the kitchen and I asked her, “Weren’t you scared out there with all that thunder last night?” I asked.

“No,” she mumbled with a shrug. “It was loud but I  just went to sleep.”

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The Day After

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The day after the Potomac Hunt Races isn’t a functional Monday; it’s just a bunch of hours strung together… an interminable slog to the finish line: rest, recovery and Tuesday. After days of preparation leading up to the Races, all the grunt work, not to mention the pre-parties… and the pre-pre-parties, and then the actual event on Sunday–

–well, Monday’s pretty ugly.

If dinner’s any indication, I served the kids the following on Monday night:

  • 1 slice of pizza, divided three ways
  • 2 chicken nuggets per kid
  • snap peas — about 20 — divvied into 3 portions
  • 1 peeled carrot per person
  • a pint of wrinkled blueberries. 

Voila, dinner is served!

To their credit, the kids didn’t utter a word. I had that post-race glaze that said: tread lightly.

But enough about recovery, fatigue and hangovers. Were the Races worth it?

Um…. yea!

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A few of our friends host a tailgate that’s always theme based. Previous themes have included safari, pirate, Wild West, and horny (don’t ask).

This year’s theme: “War Horse.”

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Bubba, replenishing supplies

 

When we weren’t socializing, snacking or depleting the mojito supply, we were piloting the gator — sometimes ferrying equipment, sometimes shuttling elderly folks or heavily burdened families en-route to their parking spots. But more often than not, we were entertaining kids in joyride fashion. Every time we started the gator, children emerged from the woodwork.

 

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Amidst all of this, there were races and horses — the whole point of the day.

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Cayden, Hadley and Brynn managed to monopolize on the event… not by betting, but by taking advantage of bettors. Hadley made a bunch of rubber-band bracelets and the kids peddled them rail-side between races.

Asking $1-$2 each, they pocketed $50 total.

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A day’s end it was time to hang it up, break down the tailgates, pack up the leftovers…

…and distribute the kids to their rightful owners.

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Molding minds with meat

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When we’re too tired to cook, we only have 1 carryout option that passes muster among everyone:

Pizza.

Fast food chains peddling burgers and fries? No dice.

“Ug, I’m not eating a salmonella-laden burger! I don’t want beef from a cow that’s been standing in a feedlot in its own poop!”

That’s Cayden speaking, not me.

But I’m Oz behind the curtain; I’ve tainted the kids with beef production propaganda.

I didn’t intend to warp them and I never thought that they’d shun a Happy Meal, but it’s happened. They haven’t eaten a McDonald’s burger in months. (Though we still dine at sit-down restaurants that are just as feed-lotty as the rest of them.)

But since we subsist on local milk and farm-fresh eggs, the next logical step was beef. And we live in an Ag community, so purchasing a locally-raised steer (or part of one) wasn’t difficult.

The steer owner (another horse person) provided me with a beef chart to select our preferred cuts, based on the animal’s anatomy. Most of it was obvious. Flank and sirloin? I wanted steak, not ground. But other sections left me mystified. Primal rib? The choices were rib steak, rib eye steak or rib roast. I dunno, what’s the difference? What’s better?

When in doubt, I selected “ground” for the shoulder, elbow and other beef hinterlands. As a result, we are flush with six-ounce sleeves of burger meat.

 

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We skipped the blind taste test, like the one conducted with the milk and eggs. But the taste differences in the meat are similar to those with the milk: the beef is more flavorful than the store-bought variety, but it’s difficult to explain why. Apparently, the steer was raised largely on grass and alfalfa, but finished with grain — a common practice; otherwise the meat is too lean and the flavor too strong.

Even so, prior to cooking, the local meat has a faint gamey odor — by no means unpleasant, just a little reminder that yes, this was once an animal. We’ve tried the steaks and the ground beef and they’re a huge hit, especially among the kids, who spout their anti-feedlot doctrine at every opportunity.

Martin did register one request: “Can you not use the word ‘gamey’? It kind of freaks me out.’

Duly noted…

…now I use the word gamey as much as possible.

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Burger, anyone? Just don’t use the G-word.