What you want to hear from an edtior

And I quote, "Your piece is perfect in every way."

Oh, if only. But it's nice to read, anyway!


My news, in a list

1. The mouse (or, at least, a mouse) is gone, dispatched not by the cat, who sat and watched while the lab, yes, the lab, toyed it into oblivion. Oh my.

2. My first national magazine piece (and it is a teeny, tiny thing, but it exists) is scheduled to run in October. Cross your fingers.

3. My latest regional magazine piece is available now around the Berkshires. If you live here, buy DinnerWhere! Read ME!

4. Next week, I start doing weekly food coverage for a wonderful website.

5. I am working with an amazing genius editor/mediatrix on a double secret, extremely cool project (her secret, not mine, or I'd tell you!) Stay tuned.

6. A wonderful person wants to give us two beautiful (rideable, trainable) horses. Am I insane? The H thinks yes. The kids think, bring 'em on.

7. I have to finish weeding the coop and build two ladders for the chiquitas so they can get outside already.

It is never, ever dull around here.


ROUS, part deux: le souris

I have no idea why the French, except I visited my friends Cyril and Dayne today at their lovely shop, and I always try to speak a few words of French with Cyril (not because we're pretentious--though sometimes we might be, just a soup├žon, you know) because he is actually French and is always encouraging me to not worry about feeling like an idiot and to try. So I do. And so I am trying to put a Continental gloss on my all-American problem: the country mouse. (Would that be un souris proven├žal??) In any case...

Tonight, I was about to "put the Babe to bed"--quotations necessary because the only person who puts that child to bed is, indeed, that child--the rest of us might die trying. She goes when she's damn well good and ready. But she's good-natured, of late, about going through the motions, even though we all know it's a charade, and in mere minutes, she'll be up and about, asking for snuggles, cuddles, water and a trip to our room to recover from the first of many bad dweams. Anyway--I was about to begin the performance when motion on her bedroom floor caught my eye. As with so many unpleasant things: I knew instantly what I was seeing, even as I forced myself to look closer. Indeed, I had seen a grey ROUsualSize scoot across her floor, towards the pile of books, games, toys and assorted other VERY NECESSARY STUFF in front of her bookcase. Vous (hey, more French!) the au pair heard me shriek, and I told her what I'd seen. Sotto voce I also said, "Go get the cat."

Now our cat, as I've written before, is less a mighty hunter than a kind of Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom nature aficionado. In our sixteen months here, I've noticed two (2) kills notched on his belt. Err, collar. But I can hope. Vous tracked him down, and to his credit, he instantly stationed himself in front of the bookcase, ears and whiskers twitching, head moving to the beat of some small mousey movements imperceptible to human ears. And again, to his credit, he didn't loll about, lick his rear, and then leave the room. As far as I know, he's still there, the mouse is still there and the Babe is in my room, playing with Kiki and Finn (aka her feet, or the "foot-babies") and refusing the unnecessary time waster that she considers sleep.


Sisyphus and the Simple Life

The problem with me, according to the H, is that I take on too many projects, and complete none of them. I am, it seems, incredibly half-assed (except, sadly, literally.) (This is ONE of the problems with me. There are, in fact, at least several others.) As irritating as it is to admit, he's not wrong. But I think I question the assumptions of the question. At least, some of them.

I realized this morning, as I cried while pulling and hacking weeds higher than my head, getting chicken-poopy-dirt in my eyes, mouth and down my shirt, that some tasks are never done. I might get all 400 square feet of my chicken coop weed-free (not bloody likely, but I can dream) but as soon as I do, barring an unseasonable frost, they'll come back. The hopelessness of this led me to what I believe may be the first day of actual regret at having made this choice. One day of substantive regret in sixteen months is pretty good, I think, but that didn't make it feel any better.


Rodents of Unusual Size

Do you know what a woodchuck is? I didn't, not really, before this year; I had vague notions of how much wood one could chuck, and thought it might be similar to that other famous odd creature, the ground hog. (In fact, they are the same, and are also known, according to the great prevaricators at Wikipedia as, get this, whistlepigs.) But this year--they're everywhere. They've chewed the boards at the bottom of one of our barns; they dash across the road in front of the car nearly as often as the little chipmunks, who always seem anxious, as they stiffly hold their tails high and run so fast their feet are a blur. As some of them seem to be about three feet long, they are, indeed, ROUS's.


According to the experts...

the boy has a bad, bad pulled muscle, and nothing more. Time will heal it. Big sighs of relief, mixed with awe and the amazing place that is the Shriner's Hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts...more on that tomorrow.


Lemonade and chocolate

On the down side, it's 5:23 a.m., and I've been up since 4:28 (never let anyone tell you that digital clocks are not a scourge.) Oh, and I was awake at 2 a.m. or thereabouts, as well, on the heels of a day where I had about three and a half anxiety attacks. This was a night where I needed sleep, and didn't get much.

As I was laying in bed with the Boy, scratching his back to help him fall asleep and silently praying to the god I don't believe in for health, I heard an odd rustling sound downstairs that could only mean one sequence of things: puppy. bad. chewing. I kissed him quickly and ran downstairs. I'm not sure what the expletive of choice was, but insert your own as you read what I saw. Two destroyed golden foil bags and one with a few remaining pieces of chocolate still inside. She'd eaten three bags of the best chocolate chips I could find at our crappy local market (as distinguished from the expensive health food market) to make a friend's birthday cake for a dinner party tonight.

We've all read about dogs and chocolate, right? It's rumored to be a lethal combination. I love my dog, but truly, after the week I've had, no emergency trips to the vet were going to happen. Plus, she seemed fine (duh, she hadn't started to digest it yet.) She usually sleeps in our room, but with visions of late night digestive explosions a possibility, we left her in her crate for the night. The H heard the 2 a.m. wake up call, and instead of just handling it himself (what I would have done, and, in fact, did on the night's second tour of duty) he woke me up too. He took her outside, I hosed out the crate (pretty much full of melted chocolate) and we put her back to bed.

She barked. She's not much of a barker, and never barks if she's crated--she likes it there, unless we're at the dinner table tormenting her by our presence and our non-shared food--she usually just turns around three times and then falls instantly asleep. But tonight, she barked some more: sharp, sad little cries. The H went down two more times to let her outside. Finally, he sacked out, but at 4:28, I opened up my Grinchy heart and went down to her. She went outside , again, sniffed and rolled around a lot while I sat hunched and bitter on the front stoop, and then she came back in, heading straight for the water. She drank--a lot--and then promptly headed up the stairs to her bed as thought nothing had happened. I followed, but couldn't settle, because neither could she--I heard her rustling and rolling and turning on her bed, agitated. And then--a geyser of chocolate scented water erupted. I sprang out of bed, herded her down the stairs, but not before another geyser. As I was about to get her out the door, again, I heard an emphatic, wide awake small voice: "Momma? Daddy? I need a CUDDLE." Ah. But of course. My feet were covered in chocolate dog vomit, so this was, clearly, the very moment that my daughter would awaken and need blanket arrangement and snuggling. I managed to find some towels to contain the mess, and spent ten minutes getting her back to sleep. Then I tackled the stairs, the entry hall, and my bedroom floor--all without the H so much as stirring.

On the plus side--I'm up early, and the house smells...like chocolate.

P.S. For Betsy--Pasha seems fine, if a little enervated (kind of like the time she found the two pounds of espresso beans the UPS man delivered and left on the front porch. That was a fun night, too.)


Charlotte's Web is just the beginning

In case you doubted E.B. White's genius (and I know you're WAY too smart for that) consider this bit of brilliance, courtesy of The Writer's Almanac:

"Just to live in the country is a full-time job. You don't have to do anything. The idle pursuit of making a living is pushed to one side, where it belongs, in favor of living itself, a task of such immediacy, variety, beauty, and excitement that one is powerless to resist its wild embrace."

No way I could have said it as well, let alone better, for heaven's sake.


Oh crap, crap, crappity crap

I had a lovely field trip today with my boy; he came with me to Springfield, Massachusetts on my Research Trip To Be Disclosed Later, and though he asked about a million times "Are we there YET?" once, we got There, he was pretty happy. (And he got that cheeseburger.) Then we headed off to the pediatrician, for our fourth visit in fewer weeks, trying yet again to determine what the hell is wrong with the beautiful boy's leg. The short answer is: there is no answer. Yet. We are being referred to a pediatric orthopedist in, get this, Springfield, Massachusetts. The boy, who was only half attending to my discussion with his doc, said, "Wait a second. We were just in Springfield. Are we going back there? TODAY?" His horror could hardly be contained. Mine either, as our pediatrician's best guess about what's wrong is something called Perthe's Disease. Not particularly serious, but not necessarily a walk in the park, either, for a preferring-to-be-active nearly seven year old boy. When the desperate mom, blaming her child's mental state, asked if it wouldn't be better for him to just go back to camp already, and, you know, try to keep reasonably still while there, the doc barely even cracked a smile. "Well, not if it causes him pain." Everything causes him pain right now. It ebbs and flows, but if that's the criteria--he's going to be stuck hanging out with me an awful lot for the next few weeks.

Oh, and did I mention that the poor H leaves for nearly a week in L.A. on Monday, a trip he's actively dreading?

Green Days

It's been a slog around here: the boy's leg is not better, and we're making our fourth trip about it to the pediatrician this afternoon. Meanwhile, since the H is deep into his new project (or at least, trying to be) and the au pair is in school today, Dido has to come with me as my research assistant for a very exciting (for me, anyway) writing assignment that tumbled miraculously into my lap about two weeks ago. He's not thrilled, as the job involves a long car ride, but there's a good hamburger in his future, so he'll survive. I don't mean to be cryptic, exactly, but I don't want to jinx what feels like incredible good fortune. I will reveal all, shortly, I promise.

The Babe is utterly resistant to any idea of going to school/camp (what do you call it when daycamp is at school?) without her big bro. The bribes have been flowing like a creek after a strong storm. New baby doll? Check! Chocolate ice cream? You got it! Anything to keep her on a schedule--at least one member of the family, preferably the smallest, loudest one, has to keep to a routine or the whole precarious imperfect machine will collapse upon itself, gears and springs tangled and twitching.

And in my sphere: my "garden" suffers under too many weeds (I got some out last week, and it seems they're all back, with their friends), my big chickens need a good coop freshening, and my little girls and their surprise rooster companions need me to get cracking on building them two ladders to the outside world--they are almost old enough to venture out to pasture...or they would be, if their outdoor area were not choked with a terrifying tangle of waist-high weeds. I have, it seems, fallen woefully behind.

On the other hand: I have started work on not one, but TWO, books. (There, I said it.) I am working on the afore-mentioned semi-secret most exciting project, which I will finish tomorrow. I have a lead on some more writing for a wonderful outlet, not to mention the hope of bartering some writing work for wine--never a bad exchange. Raise a glass to the promise of summer, when all things seem nearly possible.


Blackbirds, and cows, and the dead of night

Just a few minutes ago, I had a long exhale. Not an actual exhale, though I had plenty of those, too, but one of those extended feelings of release, where you just let go, a bit, of the tension that came before. Dido seems to be on the mend (and, I busted him for faking some of his reactions to his discomfort--that whole wincing and moaning thing? Yep. Fake. When he's actually all better, we'll talk about that one.) The H, after a truly horrible day yesterday dealing with two pieces of Really Bad News, is dealing well with one and taking the other one more or less in stride, looking for the lessons in it, and so on. Vous, the au pair, came home from her art class and almost instantly dove into an involved game of the Babe's invention, involving babies, blankets, monsters and, I'm sure, something scatalogical. And me? I sat on the front porch, feeling the pre-storm air and listening to the call of the red winged blackbird, two staccato whistles followed by a drawn out third note. I'm noticing the un-quiet here lately: the frogs are so loud at night it sounds like a truck driving by (the sound of vibration, without the sensation) and last night, during an outrageous (and these days, frequent, sorry to say) bout of insomnia, I could have sworn I heard a lost cow somewhere nearby. For a while, I entertained the idea that it was actually the black bear that everyone but me seems to have seen (kind of like the fox last year--this year, I've seen more of him than I care to) but I'm pretty sure it was bovine, not ursine. John says he heard it this morning, around five, and I heard it at two, so unless it was a shared hallucination, I think one of our neighbors' girls went wandering. We have dairy farms down both roads that lead towards our house, large ones, and I have yet to tire of seeing the cows in the fields as I drive by.