Tag Archives: family

Counting on My Fingers and Toes

Some of you old-timers may remember this post: From One to Ten.  With a little editing I’ve turned it into a song. Sorry, I pulled the audio off a video camera so the recording isn’t that great.

Counting on My Fingers and Toes

I once thought that ONE was enough.
Me by myself with only my stuff.
But I met a nice girl and love it was true.
We had a big wedding and then we were TWO.

We once thought that TWO was okay.
She and I hanging out every day.
But we drove by a sign that said, “kittens for free!”
We took home a kitten, and then we were THREE.

We once thought that THREE wasn’t bad.
There wasn’t anybody we wanted to add.
But then we decided to get one more.
A friend for our cat and then we were FOUR.

This is the story how my family goes.
Changing every day right under my nose.
Kinda like a flower living in the garden.
Sprinkle in some love and it grows and grows.

This is the story how my family goes.
How big we’ll get, well nobody knows.
For now I’ll just have to keep on counting.
Starting off small, getting bigger and bigger.
That’s how my family grows.

We once thought that FOUR was fine.
One cat was her’s and one cat was mine.
One day a beautiful baby arrived.
A sweet little girl, and then we were FIVE.

We once thought that FIVE was alright.
Though space was getting a little bit tight.
But we wanted to add one more to the mix.
Along came a boy and then we were SIX.

We once thought that SIX was nice.
Not a bird or a fish or a snake would entice.
Then we decided two dogs would be great.
We skipped over SEVEN and went straight to EIGHT.

This is the story how my family goes.
Changing every day right under my nose.
Kinda like a flower living in the garden.
Sprinkle in some love and that’s how it grows.

This is the story how my family goes.
How big we’ll get, well nobody knows.
For now I’ll just have to keep on counting.
Starting off small, getting bigger and bigger.
That’s how my family grows.

We once thought that EIGHT was plenty.
At least it was only eight and not twenty.
Then one of our dogs, she went up to heaven.
Suddenly we were back down to SEVEN.

We once thought that SEVEN was ample.
Add any more and we’d surely be trampled.
“I have two goats” said a friend of mine.
We took home the goats and then we were NINE.

We once thought that NINE was neat.
But something was missing to make us complete.
We all liked riding a horse now and then.
We got ourselves a horse and then we were TEN.

This is the story how my family goes.
Changing every day right under my nose.
Kinda like a flower living in the garden.
Sprinkle in some love and it grows and grows.

This is the story how my family grows.
Someday we may add more, I suppose.
For now I’ll just have to keep on counting.
But if we keep getting bigger and bigger.
I’ll be counting on my fingers and toes!

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The Tree of Life

Two years ago, just about this time in early October, I wrote a post called the Tree of Life and dedicated it to my son. It was on a day similar to today, the onset of autumn and days filled with deep, healing breaths of cool, crisp air and the beginning of falling leaves. I stood this morning in my kitchen, staring out the window, with a steaming cup of coffee in my hand and watched a leaf fall from the large Maple tree that sits outside our house. That same scenario, an autumn leaf falling from a tree was the spark that got me to my keyboard two years ago to produce what is one of my favorite posts on this site.

My kids both have milestone birthdays coming up in November. My son will turn thirteen and finally be a teenager and my daughter will turn “sweet sixteen”. I’m so proud of these kids and what they’ve become. Of course, what responsible, loving parent isn’t proud of every step forward their children make in life? But also, like many of you reading, years of guiding our kids in so many directions can take a deep toll on our levels of patience, understanding and compassion.

I’m not always at my most compassionate these days. My wife Kim used to say I had “the patience of Job”, whoever Job is… and she was right. I did and many days I still do. But I’m also a “You’re injured? Wrap a bandage around it and quit moaning”, kind of parent. Last evening my son was an absolute train wreck after weeks of seventh grade classes, daily football practices, Boy Scout events, and on top of that not feeling well. I wasn’t mean or angry with his “call for help”, but I certainly didn’t offer up what would have been most helpful; a strong hug from Dad and some therapeutic compassion. We got home about 8:30 pm and he laid down directly on the mattress of his unmade bed and was asleep in minutes.

Children are resilient little beasts and this morning, all was well again and he was mostly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, as much as a twelve-year-old can be at 7:00 a.m. in the morning. Shortly after the kids left for school, I stood by that kitchen window, with my steaming cup of coffee and watched that leaf fall. It reminded me of my Tree of Life post and reinforced to me that although my kids may be rapidly approaching adult hood, they are still just kids who are trying to find their way in the world, trying to please their parents and teachers and friends and looking for guidance from the adults in their lives.

They are kids climbing the Tree of Life in search of that perfect autumn leaf that they can ride to bigger and better things. As adults and parents, we are that tree and though we often have to fight through the storms that life throws at us, it’s those storms that remind us, always in a most timely fashion, when to dig our roots in just a little bit deeper.

If you weren’t a follower back in 2011, here’s my story: The Tree of Life. I hope you enjoy it.

The Tree of Life

Once upon a time there was a tree.
And it grew in a beautiful place in the country.
The tree was tall and had deep roots and solid branches and green leaves.
And it was a proud tree.

One day a boy began climbing the tree.
And he knew that he wanted to climb until he reached the very top.
So the tree carefully guided him from branch to branch, higher and higher.
And the boy felt safe and loved.

The boy continued climbing the tree, a little higher every day.
And as the boy climbed the tree, the tree provided comfort and protection.
Its leaves gave the boy shelter, its branches gave the boy structure.
And its roots gave the boy a solid foundation to build on.

Then one day the boy finally reached the top of the tree.
He was excited and the tree was very proud of how far he had climbed.
But the tree knew that the time had come.
To let the boy go.

So the tree said to the boy.
“My leaves are changing colors and the wind is starting to blow.”
“Find the biggest leaf you see and climb on it and close your eyes.”
“And the wind will take you wherever you’re supposed to go.”

The boy looked to his right and to his left and up above and down below.
And finally, at the very, very top of the tree on the very highest branch.
The boy saw the most perfect leaf he had ever seen.
And he climbed onto the leaf and closed his eyes just as the tree had told him.

Soon the wind picked up and the boy could feel his leaf trembling.
He grabbed on with all his strength to be sure he wouldn’t fall.
And then he watched as the stem of his leaf began to break free.
From the tree that had nurtured him for so many years.

The boy was excited to be free and on his own.
And as the strong wind carried the leaf high up into the air like a magic carpet,
The boy turned around and waved goodbye to the tree.
And it was a proud tree.

Soon the boy was far enough away that he could no longer see the tree.
So he turned back around to watch where the wind might be taking him.
All around, the boy saw the amazing opportunities the world had to offer.
And he settled in for the ride of his life.

The wind carried the boy to mystical places and magical lands.
On exotic adventures and extraordinary challenges.
Through happiness and sadness and love and hate.
And wins and losses and successes and failures.

As the wind carried the boy he felt exhilaration and freedom.
He began to learn to control the leaf and take it where he wanted it to go.
And he grew and gained knowledge and insight and experience and wisdom.
And felt as if he could fly forever.

But eventually the boy grew weary and wished that his leaf would finally land.
And he remembered what the tree had said when he was first set free.
So he closed his eyes just as the tree had told him.
And the wind began to slow down and change directions.

When the boy opened his eyes, the wind had carried him back to the country.
There was the tree with its deep roots and solid branches and green leaves.
As the boy smiled at the tree, the wind blew one last burst.
And he landed safely right at the base of the trunk.

The boy was happy to finally be on the ground.
He knew that his leaf had fallen right where it was supposed to have fallen.
And when the tree looked down and noticed that the boy had grown into a man.
It was a proud tree.

For my son, who is climbing his own tree and will someday have to be let go.

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A Moment in Time

I’m sitting outside. It’s about 9:00 pm on Saturday night. A plastic cup of cheap wine by my side. The old boom box radio sings to me from just outside the barn. “Grassroots”, a bluegrass and roots music program is playing on NPR. We listen to it almost every Saturday night and again on Sunday mornings. A warm fire is burning in the firepit.

Nothing out of the ordinary except the usual heat of your average summer night has been pushed out by a cold spell. The temperature is in the 50’s and I sit here in long pants, a sweatshirt and stare beyond the fire to our apple tree, full of small yellow apples. I imagine the tree is wondering if it has somehow fallen behind and missed its growth season. I’m happy to see apples though, as the last two years have been very sparse.

Three of my four goats are grazing away, happy to have some human companionship outside but on this occasion not hovering around looking for their heads to be  scratched. Goats are extraordinarily affectionate creatures and it occurred to me today that I could never have imagined “farm animals” bringing me so much joy. Goat number four, Heath, is inside their barn. He is getting old and doesn’t get out as much as he used to. Like any animal, none of them will live forever and that thought saddens me, yet I am grounded knowing that we are providing them a comfortable lifestyle.

The corn field across Brown Road is being irrigated. I was annoyed this morning when the farm equipment woke me up, but now I’m soothed hearing the sound of water soaking the stalks. I hear the fsh, fsh, fsh, fsh, as the gigantic, prehistoric looking irrgation sprinkler fires out spray after spray of water, as if it is trying to keep beat with the upright bass that anchors the latest bluegrass tune on the radio.

Jonathan is inside. The girls tonight, out of town at a softball tournament. It seems like that’s the stage of life we are in, with something going on every weekend. “Divide and conquer” we like to say. You go here, I’ll go there and both kids will be happy having a parent around. He’ll come out  soon enough though and we’ll cook hobo pies on the fire before calling it quits for the night.

Though the girls are away, I’m happy to be home.  It’s peaceful tonight, a little rare, quiet, alone time. I worked around the yard a lot today, until my 45 year old back told me enough was enough. There’s something about physical work though that is rewarding. Sometimes I think it’s what we were supposed to do, before technology took it all away.

In contrast, I sit here and type on an iPad and wonder what I would do without it. The bright screen, the fire and the two security lights the only thing interrupting the total blackness of the night. Soon the bats will be out, circling the lights and getting their fill of insects.  Later tonight the coyotes will stand around in a circle, far away, but close enough that we’ll hear them howl and laugh as if celebrating a reunion of old friends. It’s dark now and everything around me has become a scene of outlines and shadows. The radio seems louder as if somehow it is disturbing the night solitude. But there’s nothing to disturb here, no one around, just me and the goats and the bats and lots of crickets and likely lots of other wildlife that I can’t see or hear.

The fire is dying now, so I will go put more wood on. Because this may be just a moment in time. But if I have any say in the matter, I’d like it to last just a little bit longer.

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A Noisy Old Place

My old house is a noisy old place…

Sometimes my house makes a whispy-whish-woo
When windows are open and winds blowing through
And sometimes my house makes a-rat-a-tat-tat
When rain’s pouring down on its roof like a hat

And sometimes my house makes a zoom-zooma-zoom
When it’s hot and there’s fans blowing air ‘round the room
And sometimes my house makes a crackity-pop
When it’s cold and the woodstove is burning non-stop

And sometimes my house make a ticka-tick-tock
When gears are wound tight on the grandfather clock
And sometimes my house makes a meepy-meep-beep
When alarm clocks go off and wake us from sleep

And sometimes my house makes a clump-a-dump-bump
When water gets pulled through the well by the pump
And sometimes my house makes a clinky-clink-clank
When hot water goes through the pipes from the tank

And sometimes my house makes an eeeky-squeak-creak
When stair steps are loose or the floor boards are weak
And sometimes my house make a thumpity-thump
When a cat on a windowsill chooses to jump

And sometimes my house makes a gushy-gish-gush
When stuff in the toilet goes down with a flush
And sometimes my house makes a gurgly-goo
When stuff in the toilet can’t make it quite through

And sometimes my house makes a whesha-whish-whesh
When the washer is getting our clothes clean and fresh
And sometimes my house makes a hum-de-dum-dum
When the dryer spins clothes in it’s rotating drum

And sometimes my house makes a…

Yakety-yak and a ticky-tak-talk and a chitty-chit-chat and a smoochity-smooch and a lovey-bug-hug and a sniffly-sniff and a hacky-yack-hack and a tooty-toot-toot and a giggly-goo and a sing-sangy-song and a laughity-laugh and a… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz… and so many more!

And those are the sounds that I most want to hear
The sounds that my house enjoys all through the year
The sounds of my family, the big and the small
Those are the bestiest-best-sounds of all!

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The Dad Store

A little boy named Jonny, got tired of his Dad.
He went into the Dad Store, to see what else they had.
The choices were so many, of every shape and size.
All with different skill sets, he couldn’t believe his eyes.

He stood there in the Dad Store, feeling sort of lost.
He didn’t know quite where to start or what a Dad might cost.
His confidence was waning, he turned back towards the door.
But in his way, a salesperson said “welcome to our store!”

“I’ll help you find a Dad today, let me show you ‘round.”
“‘Cause when it comes to Dad Stores, we are world-renowned.”
“I’m only here to help you, I don’t work on commission.”
“I’ll help you find a Dad today, just give me your permission.”

Jonny said “I guess so, please show me what you’ve got.”
“I didn’t bring much money, I just can’t spend a lot.”
The salesman looked at Jonny, a big smile on his face.
“We’ll work within your budget, you’ve come to the right place!”

“Let’s start here with the athletes, the ones who teach you sports.”
“The ones who’ll have you spend your days on fields and rinks and courts.”
“They’ll teach you lots of lessons, to take one on the chin.”
“And why it so important, to always try to win!”

“Over here’s the wealthy Dads, the ones with tons of money.”
“They’re always at their offices, on rainy days or sunny.”
“They’re mostly not around much, not when you want to play.”
“They’ll buy you lots of stuff though, new gifts for every day.”

“This aisle is the Brainy Dads, the ones who’ll be your buddy.”
“When hanging out means books and such and lots of time to study.”
“Report cards with a load of A’s, your only affirmation.”
“They’ll push you to a 4.0, a Harvard education!”

But Jonny didn’t want these Dads, with all their quirky rules.
He didn’t want that pressure, of money, sports, or schools.
“I only want a Dad” he said, “who’ll love me every day.”
“Regardless of the grades I get or all the sports I play.”

“I want a Dad who’ll hug me, when I’m feeling down.”
“I want a Dad who’ll make me laugh by acting like a clown.”
“Who’ll teach me to be brave enough to try things on my own.”
“Who’ll be the closest friend I have, when I feel alone.”

The salesman looked at Jonny, digesting what he’d heard.
He paused for just  a moment, before he said a word.
“I’m sure that we can find a Dad, the one you just prescribed!”
“With all those special qualities, the ones you just described!”

Then Jonny said “I’m sorry but I think I know who’s best.”
“I think I know a Dad who’s so much different from the rest.”
“That’s the Dad I have at home, who’ll stand so far above.”
“That’s the Dad, no matter what, the one I’ll always love!”

Happy Father’s Day to ALL the amazing Dads out there! Whether we realize it or not, we provide an integral part of the package that helps our kids grow into caring and responsible adults. Thank you  for being a loving, involved father to your kids, you ARE making the world a better place!

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When I grow up I want to be a… Dreamer?

When I was a kid I wanted to be an archeologist…

I spent about ten hours over two days this past weekend shoveling, raking and roto-tilling the area where our garden will be. I could barely move Sunday evening. This will be the second year we have had our garden in this area, but we expanded it by about 1/3 this year and we are working on putting up decent fencing that will keep the goats out. It’s now about 15’ wide x 35’ long, not a huge space, but enough for us to grow some fresh food.

We live on an old property. Our house was built sometime around 1890. Our three small barns are newer but I’m guessing were built in maybe the 1940’s or 1950’s. There has been A LOT of people that have lived on this property and I have learned, in the twenty years that we have been here, that if you dig a hole, you will inevitably find something.

We’ve never discovered anything valuable or terribly noteworthy. It’s usually just pieces of rusty metal, nails and small pieces of farm equipment, but we are always joking about finding “artifacts.” There are, seemingly, pieces of pottery and porcelain all over the place, buried a few inches under the ground, hidden history of the one hundred plus years of home owners that came before us. For awhile I was collecting small pieces of what seemed to be a brown pottery bowl, thinking I could glue it all back together, but eventually gave up.

This is what I found while digging around in our garden this year:

archeology

My imagination runs wild when I find something, so I think we’ve obviously either uncovered an old civil war camp or the site of an alien spaceship landing… or maybe just a place where previous residents used to throw some trash. Yes, that is Naughty’s (one of our goats) name tag you see there in the center, probably lost within the last few weeks. When I looked down and saw that shiny circle, about 1/3 of it peeking out from underneath the freshly tilled soil, I thought “this is it, I’ve finally found the Holy Grail, a valuable 19th century coin!”

Alas, just Naughty’s name tag… oh well, maybe next time.

What is it about boys and digging up stuff? Yes, even at 45 years old, give me a shovel and let me dig a hole and in my mind there is sure to be buried treasure if I dig deep enough.  In fifth grade, a friend of mine lived in a very old house, much older than mine, near Smithtown, Long Island, New York, where I grew up. It was a sprawling 18th century home, sitting up on a small bluff next to a marsh of the Long Island Sound.  Deep in the woods on their property they had discovered an old trash burial site where we would go dig up cool old things, mostly chunks of glass and pottery and rusted metal that was unidentifiable as to its purpose in a previous life. We never found anything terribly noteworthy then either, but I do remember one day digging up an old rusty can labeled “tooth powder” and figured that was what people used to brush their teeth with back in the day.

I never became an archeologist…

Like most people, there were lots of things I wanted to be as a kid that I never pursued.  When I was in elementary school I wanted to draw cartoons for the newspaper. My claim to fame, as a cartoonist, was a six frame cartoon that in the first frame showed a house with a Garage Sale sign in front.  I don’t remember all the details, but as the frames progressed, a Giant shows up to the sale, apparently does some intense negotiating and ends up carrying away the actual garage.

Get it… garage sale? Hilarious!

So I never became a cartoonist either…

After that, for a period of time, I wanted to be a Writer. I didn’t really know anything about writing and I rarely wrote, but my grandmother, who wrote poetry and, over the years, columns for local newspapers and magazines, put that thought in my mind so I went with it. I never really wrote anything consistently until I started The Brown Road Chronicles, but now it’s become a pretty regular part of my day to day life so perhaps I shouldn’t cross this one off the list yet.

When I was in high school I wanted to be a Park Ranger.  In my high school yearbook I was voted something like “most likely to go off into the woods and live like a hermit” or maybe it was “most likely to become a Park Ranger.” Or maybe it was some combination of the two. I can’t remember the exact quote and I don’t know where my yearbook is to look it up.

But I never became a Park Ranger… or a hermit…

The list goes on and on. I never became a Professional Cellist or a Ford Fashion Model or a Graphic Artist or a Custom Furniture Maker or an Antiques Dealer either and I can say, to this day, I still really haven’t figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

Professional writer, homesteader, goat farmer is probably the latest on the list…

Kids have that amazing ability to dream about wanting to pursue “careers” that seem unique and glamorous and fun. Then we become adults and realize that the odds aren’t very good to make a living as musicians or artists or authors… or archeologists… or homesteader, goat farmers. There’s a limited number of “slots” for every career and some of us have to fill the other slots and sometimes those slots aren’t as interesting or glamorous or fun.

But the point is to never stop dreaming about it whether those dreams are realistic or totally unobtainable.  Because if you stop dreaming, you stop living and of all the things I’ve taught my children, some good, some not so good, some still to come… the one thing I hope I’ll be most proud of when I send them off, wings spread, into the world of adult hood…  is that they’ll be dreamers too.

Now,  I think I’ll go dig a hole. I’m sure that coin is out there somewhere.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

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A Pop Quiz for My Teenagers

I was ready to divorce my teenage kids this past Memorial Day weekend. I had called the Divorce attorneys on the back of the phone book and had the papers all drafted. Thankfully, my wife talked me off the cliff and I was able to save the attorney fees. She’s good that way, at talking me off the cliff. Sometimes I have to talk her off the cliff. Sometimes we both want to jump off the cliff… and maybe have sex as we plunge to our deaths because it’s the only time we’d have any privacy. Plus the guy who spoke at the Memorial Day parade said lot’s of stuff about finding peace and happiness with the people who you care about and that settled me down a bit.

My kids hadn’t really done anything wrong. I was just tired of them. I was tired of driving them places, tired of cooking them meals, tired of picking up their stuff, tired of trying to keep their lives organized. Is it okay to say you’re tired of your kids sometimes? Well, whether it’s okay or not, I’ll man up and say it… I WAS FUCKING TIRED OF THEM!

They’re actually really good kids. Well behaved most of the time, well respected by their peers and teachers, “A” students. They participate and are successful in a lot of school activities.  But sometimes… well, most of the time…. okay look… all of the time, they just don’t get it. They’re messy, they’re lazy, they roll their eyes a lot, sometimes they’re even a little… GASP… disrespectful. They’re TEENAGERS!

So I decided to take a cue from all of my teacher friends. You see, the way that teacher’s know if their students are “getting it” is they give them regular quizzes.  So, I am going to start assigning monthly quizzes to my kids.

Here is the first one… it’s multiple choice:

1. A reasonable amount of time necessary to straighten up our home before guests come over would be:

A. 1/2 hour.
B. 1-2 hours.
C. 2-4 hours.
D. 17 days.

2. The proper place to put dirty dishes when you are done using them:

A. Washed and dried and placed back into the appropriate cabinet.
B. Washed and set in the dish strainer to dry.
C. Rinsed well and set on the counter next to the sink.
D. Under the couch.

3. The appropriate time to tell your parents about something you need completed for school is:

A. As soon as you learn about the assignment deadline.
B. The day after you learn about the assignment deadline.
C. One week before the date of the assignment deadline.
D. “Dad, you need to sign this paper from my teacher so you know I missed an assignment deadline.”

4. The reason we have a strict “bed time” on Sunday nights, between 10:00 – 11:00 pm is:

A. Children who get enough sleep do better in school.
B. Monday morning is the most difficult day to wake up on time.
C. Weekends are busy and we need to give our bodies adequate rest.
D. Your parent’s haven’t had sex in three months and that’s the only night we might be able to stay awake.

5. If a pair of your dirty underwear somehow ends up lying on the kitchen floor you should:

A. Pick them up and carry them to the laundry hamper.
B. Pick them up and while you are bending down, with a damp paper towel, wipe up the entire animal full of fur that has accumulated under the cabinets.
C. Question why your dirty underwear is on the kitchen floor.
D. All of the above.

6. The proper use of lights and light switches in the house is:

A. To turn on when you are doing your homework and to turn off when you are completed.
B. To provide temporary light while you are using the bathroom and to turn off when you are completed.
C. To provide low level lighting in the evenings when it gets dark outside and to turn off before bedtime.
D. To light up our home like the sun in case there are Aliens looking for life on another planet.

7. The number of allowable pairs of shoes that each family member should have in the shoe pile by the entryway door is:

A. 1-2 pairs of shoes representing the appropriate season.
B. 3-4 pairs of shoes representing the appropriate season.
C. 26 pairs of shoes representing all four seasons, plus every sports season.
D. What’s the shoe pile by the entryway door?

8. The day after spending an entire week of vacation fun and having to re-mortgage the house to pay for it, the proper response is:

A. “Thanks Mom and Dad, that was awesome.”
B. “I love you guys, would it be okay if I cleaned the bathroom to show my appreciation!”
C. “That was so great, maybe we could do that again in a couple of years.”
D. “I’m so bored, what are we doing today?”

9. The normal and usual scent in a regularly used home bathroom should be:

A. Azaleas and other flower arrangements.
B. Bleach with a touch of lemon.
C. Fresh mountain air.
D. Boy Scout camp.

10. When Dad says things like “I can’t wait for you guys to go to college”, what I really mean is:

A. You know, there’s a nice military school down in Indiana.
B. When I was your age, I had to do my own damn laundry!
C. Seriously, I can’t wait for you guys to go to college.
D. I really do LOVE YOU, I just need a “time out!”

Do you ever get tired of your kids? Yeah, I know, stupid question…

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