Thursday, July 31, 2014

dark side of the moon

One day to go until fair, and I have spent entirely too much time pondering the mysteries of the volunteer universe, or more specifically, how can I make this work without my family imploding?

The reasoning goes something like this:

Kids, and especially your own kids, want to be in a great club.

Having a great club takes a lot of work and dedication.

The only ones usually willing to do such ungodly amounts of work are those with children in the club.

Children whose parents are leading the club often get the short end of the stick as a result.

Parent-leaders are stressed and overwhelmed and guilty about this conundrum.

Parent-leaders find themselves thinking, Am I really doing a darn thing for my kids as a result of all this? Or am I just making everyones' lives miserable for absolutely no reason at all?

This may sound familiar to most volunteers, or at least the vast majority that I know. I am in awe of the ones that manage to walk this tightrope year in and year out and not have their house come crashing down around their ears. It must require a mastery of line-drawing exercises that I have failed thus far to master, and this will be our ninth fair, so I don't know if I will ever get it.

If Terzo stays in until the end, it would mean eight more fairs. I am not sure I have it in me but I feel guilty (there it is again) for not hanging in there for him—although technically, he has been at nine fairs as well, even if he may have been too little to remember the first two or three. I tried very hard to put him first this year, to not let the minutiae overwhelm his first year of full membership in the club (4-H technically starts in fourth grade). He wanted to be in the costume contest, so I worked on a costume with him, instead of just making sure that the costume contest could take place for everyone else. It was his first year doing a record book, and we walked through it together, without anyone else around to distract or dismiss. He was the first one in the house who finished, a tremendous source of pride and accomplishment for him.

I already know I will miss times like this, working with the boys, even if getting them to sit down and do the work was an exercise in frustration. Which begs the question, why do I have to feel like I am the one that has to make them do it, and why am I the one who gets so frustrated? Which leads right back to the original issue of why this all has to be so miserable.

Those of you who are reading this and nodding your head in recognition, I have no idea how this ends. Right now, I just need to get through another fair.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

what, me worry?

Our truck has been idling little rough this week, which I noticed only because I have had to use it as my sole mode of transportation while our car is in the shop. Of course, I was the only one to notice the rough idle. I was also the only one to panic, because there is only one time during the entire year that the green truck HAS to work, and that is when it is towing the trailer to and from the county fairgrounds for fair.

Do you sense a theme this week? Fair dominates my every waking (and sleeping) thought (and nightmare).

In a bit of a sweat today, I called my friend and fellow 4-H leader, who also happens to be married to an awesome mechanic, who is also a really nice guy. He came over tonight to take a listen and set my mind at rest, and diagnosed a slight problem with the vacuum something-or-other. He reassured me that it will be fine for the all-important tow, but he will see to the problem in the near future.

I strongly suspect that he was just appeasing me so I will stop bugging his poor wife, but I'll take it.

Primo had come out to shoot the breeze with them, plus he had an ulterior motive. For a week now, he has been complaining about the awful whistling noise that his car has been making. It is apparently so awful that he agreed that he would not drive to and from his girlfriend's house 30 miles away, a fate worse than death, rather than risk the imminent breakdown of his car. My husband and I had listened to the car in the driveway, but had failed to hear the whistle.

Before the mechanic left, Primo asked if he could lend his ear to the problem. Because the whistle only happens while the car is in motion, he took the guy for a quick spin.

The problem reared its noisy head soon after they left the driveway.

"Hmm....," our mechanic friend said. "Is anything new? Your windows not working properly? Did the sound appear after the cracked windshield was fixed?"

No, no and no, Primo responded.

Then it dawned on him. The whistle started right after.... he put on the bike rack for a mountain biking expedition with his girlfriend last week.

It's a wonder the guy still talks to us.

Monday, July 28, 2014

whine whine groan moan

It's pre-fair week. I am nothing but a puddle of whiiiiinnnne.

I was feeling all in control for most of the day, like I had a prayer of holding it together.

The vet visit, required to take livestock to any sort of fair gathering, that I almost forgot to schedule? Done today, with minimal fuss thanks to my wonderful right-hand middle son, and all animals given the green light to take a little trip in four days.

Laundry? Three loads, including sheep coats (taken off the sheep on shearing day back in March) in preparation for the sheep beautification projects that need to be undertaken this week.

Three knitting projects, submitted in April, that appeared in my inbox on Sunday to be proofread by Wednesday? Finished in the quiet of this morning and turfed back to the editor.

Legal work? Another project, almost done and ready to be sent on its merry way.

Then I hit 4 pm and the wheels came off.

I found out I have to work for my husband all day Thursday, a.k.a. fair set-up day, a.k.a. the day everything gets done for fair, a.k.a. it remains to be seen what the name will be this year, possibly "the day mom had a nervous breakdown."

Then I received a text message from Primo: his wrist hurt. Followed by a message from my husband: he was sending Primo to get an X-ray because he may have broken his arm. Long story short: it isn't broken, though it is swollen because he crushed it under a ramp at his landscaping job.

I nearly finished the breaking job an hour later, however. Seems he wanted a certain dinner, just not the one I was fixing, so he stopped on his way home to pick up dinner for him and his girlfriend. Then brought it home to eat, with us, at the dinner table, with his girlfriend. Needless to say, he never did ask what he could get for the rest of us. I spend entirely too much time these days trying to figure out where exactly I went wrong in raising him, then I remind myself that he is an 18-year-old boy and try to hope that it will wear off at some point.

The box of blueberries, spilled as I was rushing home with dinner for everyone else in the family, just about sums up the evening. I do hope the birds got to enjoy the berries before cars ran them over.

Friday, July 25, 2014


It has been one of those weeks, which it always tends to be during the two or so weeks before fair. Not sure which is the chicken and which is the egg. Fair is a load of work, yes, but why does everything else tend to snowball during this time? I started a brief list yesterday, then got derailed before posting, so here it is with some status updates.

Terzo is sick. Finally better—he ran a fever for three days. But now we are dealing with poor Secondo being stung by wasps at his farm job yesterday. This is a "just woke up and the Benadryl has worn off" picture. The other picture would be much less swelling but him dozing in a chair from the effects of the Benadryl.

A lamb is sick. Also better. For now. But the gate to their pen is broken.

The rabbit is sick. We can't move him outside to get some fresh air, which he desperately needs, because the flies attack him and lay eggs on him as soon as he is out, as we discovered to his detriment last week. He must smell like death and decay. It is damp in the basement but it's that or flystrike. Poor old guy! I need to figure out some other housing arrangement asap.

My husband's little finger is broken. We think it happened when he was taking care of the sick lamb.

Sheep need to be moved. That is tomorrow morning's job.

I do both of my jobs at the mercy of remote computer systems, and neither of those systems is working at the moment. One has been out for over a week. Both problems were resolved late yesterday, right before I lost my freaking mind because I was so far behind and couldn't do a thing about it.

The laundry has reached epic heights and levels of smelliness. No change there. Ever.

Fair is next weekend. Also no change. But I did experience a brief glimmer of hope when I saw that the expiration date on the milk is August 3. My train of thought: "Fair will be over by the time this milk expires, so that point isn't too far away. I can cope with anything for the time that it will take for this milk to go bad."

And so on (and on and on and on) and so forth...

I did end up with a most restorative end to the week, teaching someone how to knit this afternoon. She wants to make a scarf for her daughter, who will also going be off to college this fall, in the colors of her daughter's chosen school. The easiest way I could think of was to cast on 300 or so stitches—the daughter wants a long scarf—and then she can just knit every row for a bit, then switch colors and do the same. The daughter is one of my favorite 4-Hers, so it was a pleasure to work with them both to figure out a solution to what they both wanted. It is nice to occasionally make things work.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

she's at it again

I came in from working on the barn and found this horrific sight.

Brand new curtains, because the cat had torn the old ones, in the toilet.

I didn't have to search too hard to figure out who the paw-petrator was. No other paw-sibilities existed.

I'll stop now. But I would also like to add that the drop of liquid was a result of me dragging the curtains out of the toilet.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

picking up steam

The entire family crew was on hand for today's barn assault, plus my ever-patient parents. 

This made all the difference in the world. We morphed into two work crews, both of which have more than a passing acquaintance at this point with the ins and outs of vinyl siding installation.*

One crew specialized in attaching the siding, while the other crew worked ahead to mount the J-channel at all critical points, sometimes using the truck bed as a ladder. Don't report us to OSHA.

As we have learned, and I will happily share with you in case you ever need to know, J-channel is the magical piece that holds the siding in place on the sides, top, and bottom of your building. We could write a manual at this point, which would maybe even be better than the manual than we have, written as it is in Comic Sans. No apologies for my font snobbery. 

We were lucky to have a detail that specialized in work crew rehydration.

Dusty was, as usual, resigned.

By the end of the day: one side of the barn, FINISHED!!! OK, so it is the shortest side height-wise, but it is the longest width-wise. The photo includes a bit of the unfinished side to show how great it looks. We were joking that we should have chosen a dramatically different color so the transformation would be a little more obvious to other people, but we know.

Even better than one side of the barn done, was the the fact that we made great progress on another side of the barn!

The door is the only bit left on the bottom to put siding on; it already has the PVC framing and a brand new window, with screens, in place. Best Christmas present ever, especially because it came with the labor and know-how to mount it in place. Thanks Mom and Dad!!!

None of us is looking forward to working on the part above this section, however, which extends up to a twenty-foot peak.

*Nina, you were correct. The siding is vinyl. Just the framing boards (the white in the pictures) are made of PVC. Thanks for the catch.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

the boys are back

Our final long trek this week, up to the northwestern corner of New Jersey to pick up our two boys from camp, plus two other 4-H boys.

The return trip was quite a pungent one. Partially because it had rained early in the week and the wet clothes marinated at the bottom of plastic laundry bags for the entire week. Partially because although they swear they took showers all week, they neither looked nor smelled like they had any encounters with running water or soap since the last time we had seen them.

The camp theme this week was pirates. All of the kids in our car declared it to have been "the best camp week ever."

This was Secondo's seventh year in a row at this camp, so I guess he is pretty qualified to make that judgment.

All four boys who rode in our car are in this picture. (Hint: Terzo is in the top left.) And yes, that boy (one of our car contingent) wore that boot the entire week of camp. The boot now needs to be burned.

As for the socks? Those of you who bet that Terzo wouldn't even sully four pairs: you win.