What we’re reading at our house in January: the (quite necessary!) backstory

Isn’t winter a grand time to read more books? We think so. The days are shorter and there aren’t as many alluring reasons to pop outside as soon as possible in the morning. It is pleasant to spend evenings inside. One can make hot soup and bread for comfort; a crackling fire in the living room wood stove is mighty sweet, too. Of course, some winter days are stunning outside, no matter how cold it may be.

On my last post, my friend Chef William made a suggestion that I share pictures of the fam and me sitting by the wood stove, reading. Well. Maybe he’s right. We don’t work constantly, after all. We read. We read books. Sometimes even by the fire.

But. This give me pause. I read blogs that have these beautiful pictures of books. Moreover, I (I don’t dwell on these sites!) occasionally gaze in wonder at blogs with photos of impeccable interiors.

Honestly, I shouldn’t look at these sites, since they don’t exactly encourage me. They tend to lead me to discontent. And self-flagellation. Mild despair at my own ineptitude. Do real folks live in these places? Oh please, say no.

People with children . . . and dogs? Does anybody ever photograph such places as ours? Would anybody even want to? Places with dust, wood stoves that are kept burning ’round the clock, occasional flies (Mack: “Mom! I just saw a FLY! A fly in January!”); kids that get sick; occasionally even a sick chicken that takes up residence in the house; messy hobbies, to wit: seedlings and germination mix in the basement; grains soaking for the pigs and chooks in the breezeway because it’s only 10 degrees outside; laundry that is never rarely caught up.

Busy, messy, beautiful life.

That’s what’s real at our house. And that is why I take (and publish) so many photos of the outside.

Even the chicken yard, icy and barren, is beautiful on this morning.

On that note . . . I hope you know, my darling gentle reader, this: every photo I post in this space is made as pretty as I can make it. I crop out ugly backgrounds; I edit it to make it sharper, brighter, prettier. I threaten Mack (through gritted teeth) with Immediate Consequences if he doesn’t put a pleasant look on his face (truth). If I could edit out wrinkles and silver hairs, I would, but that would probably require much stronger and much more expensive editing software than I have (alas).

I delete hundreds–probably thousands!–of unflattering photos every month. Do you ever wonder why you don’t see many photos of me in this space? Well—! (coughing fit)

Anyway. Life is messy at our house. Newsflash! Chickens get sick, after all, and must needs be forced to vomit. The house gets dirty during planting season and then—stays that way. The hausfrau gets overbusy on purpose and forgets to dust. For . . . months. And outside? . . . Weeds happen, in glorious and astounding abundance!

That’s the reality at our house, and you’d better believe that I don’t photograph it all.

Back to my gracious friend Chef William--after teasing me many, many times about a visit, William promised to bring his beautiful wife Maria to our house, at long last, a couple of months ago. The circumstances of their visit I have not shared with anybody, because. Because. They popped in a couple hours earlier than they said they would, and they found us in such disarray and not-ready-for-companyness that it still makes me blush madly. MADLY, gentle reader.

I was so embarrassed that it has taken me this long to even write about it.

I was a crazy sweaty harried fishwife, folks, when they arrived. A crazy harried fishwife with her hair on fire. And a rabid opossum hanging from her pants leg. Or . . . three dozen of them. No kidding. I had never met these kind folks (in person) and this was their first impression of me, alas. Alas and alack.

Want to hear about it? I have no pride. Or, very little. I’ll risk embarrassing my dear friends William and Maria, because I’m going to be embarrassing myself even worse, and so surely I will be forgiven?

After this humiliating story, I’ll go on to the point of this post, after all: a month’s worth of book recommendations. But you’ll have to pop back in to the blog in a day or two for them, since this story is going to take the rest of my blog space for today. 🙂 hehee

First. William and Maria were scheduled to arrive at our house on Sunday afternoon, around three o’clock. Mack had woken up that morning with a sore throat, so I stayed home from church with him. I actually was a bit relieved to have a few extra hours to prepare because I wasn’t at all ready for company. (Imagine that.)

I looked around our place early that morning, after settling Mack back into bed with hot tea and toast, and getting the rest of the family off to church, and I made my plan. I’d work on food first, then clutter, then dust and dirt. I charged in. By mid-morning, I had a chicken simmering on the stove in a big pot, with aims to make it into broth, and then soup for supper. I whipped tablecloths off the tables and put chairs up, preparing to sweep and vacuum. I tossed in a load of laundry. I whipped full trash bags out of trash cans and tied up the bags, gathering them all in one spot to take out. You know–I did the housewifely thing, making things worse before they would be better. I made fires in the wood stoves, fed the animals, etc., also. Loud music was playing.

“I can do this!” I was panting. “Good thing I have until 3:00, though,” I thought grimly. “It is going to take every minute of that.”

It was already late morning when Mack got up and stretched his lanky, squirrely limbs and decided that he felt good enough, after all, to go sledding in the several inches of fresh snow that he had been aching to play in since it had fallen a couple of days earlier. “Mom, let’s go sledding!” he said, feeling his throat with his hand. “My throat is feeling better.”

*cue long blank stare from Mom*

“But you are sick . . . remember?” I said, narrowing my eyes at him. The little fraud.

“I’m feeling a little better,” he said, studiously trying not to look too happy about it. ” . . and look at that sunshine–the snow is going to melt today and we won’t be able to go! Please, Mom, the vitamin D will do me good!”

Cheeky kid. He is an avid science and health reader. He probably had something with the vitamin D gambit.

I sighed. Everything was going so well. I was set to triumph over the mountain of work I had set before myself. The chicken bubbling in the pot was beginning to smell good. I was on track to be ready for our pleasant company by 3:00, but probably not a moment before.

“Pleeeease?” I looked at my skinny little kid, his bed-hair pushed up wildly on one side. My shoulder angels began to disagree, vehemently.

Shoulder angel Carpe Diem: “He won’t be a kid much longer, you know.”

Shoulder angel Get ‘er Done: “Get real, slacker! You’re not ready for company yet!”

Carpe Diem:“What’s more important, a clean house or a happy kid?”

Get ‘er Done: “The guest room bed isn’t even made up yet!”

Well, as you can imagine, spending time with Mack–as it nearly always does–won over getting my cleaning done. Although we struck a deal, first. “Promise to help me finish the cleaning, if I go sledding with you?”

Gazing directly into my face, my little man reached up and touched his throat. I narrowed my eyes. He cleared his throat and tried to look pale. I put my hands on my hips. He tried, pathetically, to look both strong and weak at the same time. I picked up my dust cloth. An impasse. “Oh-kaaaay,” he said reluctantly. “Let’s go,” said I, “but I can only take a half an hour off, got it?”


Carpe Diem: “Yes!!” (wild victory dance and gloating glances aimed at Get ‘er Done.)

Since it was Sunday morning, and since I had been domestically employed all morning cleaning house, I hadn’t changed out of my pajamas. They are, after all, the softest flannel and arguably the most comfy clothing I own, and my plan had been to finish doing all the messy stuff inside, and then jump into the shower and change into my clean day clothes. But who cared if I still had my jammies on, right?

Nobody was going to see me except Mack.

Now the fact of the matter is, though I have some excellent cold weather snow boots (my Dad gave them to me many years ago) I do not own a pair of snow pants. Why not? I can’t tell you. I have never gone to the trouble to buy any, which is crazy. But in my defense, I hate to shop. And there are enough pairs around that belong to other people, that I usually just grab one of them, when we go out to play in the snow.

Amalia’s snow pants are what I usually choose. They are bright yellow. We actually call them “banana pants” though they are a brighter yellow than bananas. Think very very bright yellow traffic signs. That’s how bright they are. They glow, in fact, in the dark, they are so bright. And. They were made, obviously, for somebody approximately 7′ tall, so when I slip them on I have to tuck about a foot and a half of the legs into my snow boots, resulting in a comical sight, I can assure you. And. One more thing. They are not just pants, they are overalls and so they go all the way up to the shoulder.

Really, a unique garment.

But who cares what I look like when I go sledding on our place—I knew that it was just going to be Mack and me. (You’ll notice that I am not posting a picture in this case.)

So with a final rueful glance at the clock, the dust bunnies, and the full trash bags in the breezeway, I pulled the ridiculous banana pants over my flannel pajamas, donned a hat and mittens and I was ready to go.

We were on the sledding hill within minutes, and (of course) Scout tagged along, very excited to have company outside in the snow. VERY. EXCITED.

We had never been sledding with Scout before. We absolutely had no clue as to what was to come. No clue of the difficulties of trying to go sledding with a crazed-happy-collie-dog pup, who adores herding, running, playing, leaping on things that move quickly, biting things that she deems are her right to bite, etc.

To make a long story short, our darling pup was so full of joie de vivre that every time we went zipping down the hill, she would tear after us, barking, leaping on top of us, doing her lovey-bitey thing, and trying to wrestle with us. We’d careen wildly, and halfway down the hill, the three of us would end up splayed out in the snow, a wreck of laughing, groaning, snow-and-ice-covered banana pants and frustration. It really wasn’t much fun.

The first time, actually, it was kinda cute. The joyful minx. So happy! So enthusiastic! The second time, my face got smashed into the snow and scraped by weeds, and Scout’s antics already were a little tiresome. The third and subsequent times, her inability to resist ambushing us on the way down the hill was doggone annoying.

A good half-hour passed, probably longer. I stood up at the bottom of the hill, spent, frustrated with Scout, covered, of course, with snow, and sweating like crazy. The temperature was rising quickly and my banana pants and my flannel jammies were a thoroughly warm combination. I nearly peeled them off right there–the banana pants–but I resisted, not wanting to get my flannel jammies wet in the melting snow. “I’ve got to go in now,” I panted, “and finish cleaning up.”

“Nooo!” moaned Mack. “Not yetttt!” At that moment Scout jumped up on him, still crazed with happiness and naughty-doggy energy, and knocked him flat into the snow.

That. Did. It. I absolutely could not wrestle with the dog or tangle with the whining kid one more moment.

I started trudging toward the house. Absolutely exhausted. Barely able, even, to lift my big heavy boots out of the snow. Sweat ran in rivulets down my flushed face. I started peeling off layers–my coat came off first. Then my mittens. I started unclasping the ridiculous banana pants.

And then. And then, gentle readers. 🙁

You’ve seen this coming, all along, haven’t you? As I rounded the side of the house, disheveled, hot and sweaty, covered with melting snow, peeling off layers, yet still wearing Amalia’s absurd banana pants, I heard a man’s voice (not one I recognized, either), coming from the direction of the driveway: “Why, hello there, collie dog!”

I stopped. Somebody was in my driveway. Somebody. A man. Who?

A recent ice storm decorated the outdoors with icy gasp-worthy splendor.

Then I saw him. Right there in my driveway stood my dear friend Chef William. I will not ask him what he thought when he spotted me for the first time. Ever. I honestly don’t want to know. And I would ask (please) that you not ask him, either. And thank you. By the way.

“You’re . . . here!?” I said, inelegantly, brushing sweat off my face, and blushing like crazy. What a picture I must have been. *siiiiiigh* Half-dressed. Streaming with sweat and frustration. Clad in ridiculous banana pants. Three dozen opossums hanging from my pants (joking about the opossums).

Stepping inside the house, William and Maria, of course, could tell that I wasn’t quite ready for visitors (possibly the bags of trash in the foyer tipped them off?), though they surely must have wondered why I stood there, dripping sweat and yet not taking off those snow pants.

They were, in fact, the most gracious house guests ever, excusing themselves to the guest room for a few minutes, to “rest a bit.” With lightening speed, I changed out of my banana pants and did some quick tidying up, so that by the time they emerged twenty minutes later, I was on better footing to be hostess to my new/old friends. I had beat the opossums off my pants.

We had a lovely time, during which we talked about nearly everything: their lives in Mexico, chickens, dogs, food (naturally), their trip to Wisconsin, blogging, gardening, and thankfully nobody ever mentioned banana-colored pants or that the house was still quite dusty . . . not once.

AND that leads me to the book recommendations for this season. But. You’ll have to come later for that post. I’m out of time! And so, probably, are you.

Thank you, gentle reader, for popping in and being company with me in this little corner of the interwebs. If you liked this story, might you have a friend or two who would like it, too? If so, maybe you could share it with them. It would be a hug back to me, as it were. And I’m on Facebook and Instagram and I’d love your company there, too. And your comments are always welcome, always, always. They let me know that I’m doing okay.

Take care, dear ones. These are negative times. The world is changing. People can be so ugly. Let’s do our best to provide some beautiful, positive, kind things–okay?–to the conversation. Things that lift up and encourage. We’re all in this together, eh?


22 thoughts on “What we’re reading at our house in January: the (quite necessary!) backstory

  1. Pat

    Had me laughing on this cold morning….17* out……with a good foot of snow that’s been there since before Thanksgiving……..I kid you not……..but thanks for telling us this story………we all needed this in this world of so much hate and derision….so let us be kind………..

  2. Jenny D

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t always have a nice, neat photo-ready home. Life is messy at our house too! Enjoyed this story. Love that spending time with Mack wins out so often for you. You’ll never regret that.

  3. rita

    Do you know Lauren Scheuer (https://www.facebook.com/lauren.scheuer)? You would love her. She’s not political, same as you, but also on a ‘let’s be kind’ kick. You all would be so welcome to come live in Canada. She wrote a lovely book (http://laurenscheuer.com/once-upon-a-flock/) and she’s selling in her Etsy store: a bumper sticker and I think magnets are coming too, that you’d probably love (https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/LaurenScheuerArt?ref=l2-shopheader-name, see in the ‘sold’ section for the ‘be kind’ sticker. Maybe she’ll have more soon). And she has a lovely blog you should prob put on your list of places to visit (http://scratchandpeck.blogspot.ca/) LOVED your story btw. I would so be doing the exact same thing. If people didn’t come over, I might never vacuum again. 🙂

  4. Nathana

    The good ‘ole battle between seizing the moment for fun and getting something done. I feel like I face this battle every day because I want to engage in fun play and adventurous moments with Rebekah, but I still feel like I should do things like um, laundry, fixing dinner (my poor hungry husband agrees), and cleaning. Sigh. For the record, I think you made the better choice! And our house is only ever clean before bed after our daughter is asleep! 😉 Right now, I am a bit distracted from the mound of laundry I need to fold on the couch and all the toys and tissues (thank you cold season) I should probably pick up while she is napping!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Nathana, I think you can have a bit of both—I always thought my babies (and littles) were always happier if I gave them some focused attention, first thing. Then I could slip off, once their little cups were full, and get a little work done, which made ME happy.

  5. Chef William Chaney

    In the words of Paul Harvey, And now, The Rest Of The Story….oh, I can’t do that, I promised never to talk about the visit for fear I would say something about bright yellow pants that caused me to put on my sunglasses. So I will tell this, we found a shorter way to reach their house and did arrive a little ahead of schedule. We had a most enjoyable visit, yes their house has a lived in look about it but that made it warm and comfortable on a cold winter day. There were many high points during the short visit. We are still talking about the scones. Amy even packed a few for us to take with us and as My wife and I shared the last one while nearing Wisconsin, we both looked at each other and thought maybe we should turn around and go back, act like we got lost and get a few more. We really enjoyed meeting some of her family. And when she talks about books, believe her, they love books. The New York City Library should have so many. I found a couple within minutes of arriving that I liked so much I bought copies as soon as we reached our northern home…..Great Family, Great Visit, Great Memories.

  6. Kay

    Today I had a buyer for my older Singer sewing machine coming over. I cleaned, and cleaned and Cleaned and CLEANED! Because this person would be coming into my house and then down to the dungeon, I mean basement. Mid-day I stopped to finally eat something (coffee alone will not keep one going) and popped online for “only a few minutes” (ok… an hour! sheesh) and then realized I really needed to get those beefers watered and those kitty-cats fed and then it was such a nice blustery day (in a good way) with the wind roaring in the tree-tops and then realized “HELP! that basement was still a horrible dusty, cobwebby, dead-bug, disorganized mess from when we cleaned out the storm room!!!” So in I trudged to get that job done because you know this “kindly older gentleman” who was coming to buy my machine would not understand dust and mess. I knew his sweet wife was a perfect housekeeper. Fast forward to getting that done and curling my hair And putting on make-up. Because I didn’t want to scare the kind older gentleman (heart attack!) Then he arrived and SURPRISE! The “kindly older gentleman” was all of 20 yo and a very nice, sweet even, YOUNG gentleman who complimented me on our farm and probably didn’t even notice the few cobwebs I missed. 🙂

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Oh, Kay, what a fun story! So often we obsess over things (i.e. a clean house!) that nobody else really even notices, anyway, eh? Good for you for enjoying the moment!

  7. Lynne Widener

    I have not been reading your posts for a long time because of busyness in my life. After reading this one I wonder why I have neglected your treasure of a blog! I love your “realness” and identify with so much of what you share about your life.
    Thank you for blessing me today!

  8. M.

    Amy, REAL possums? Or is that a cold climate term for some kind of snow-related thing that escapes my Southern lexicon? I don’t doubt what you experienced; I’m trying to picture it. I’d be screaming and slapping at the critters, I can tell you that! What a fun story. Thanks for sharing.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      No, no, I’m sorry, that was just a joke. I was trying to illustrate how harried and hassled I felt at that moment!

  9. Saskia

    Love the story. I often struggle with the balance between being productive and enjoying good things, too. I think I’m getting better at it though.
    I believe that those people with the perfect house Instagram pictures are probably very good at being productive and organised, but probably not so good at being happy. Always thinking that happiness will come when their house would just look a tiny bit tidier, with that new sofa, with the next promotion, etc.
    I love that you seem to find it so easy to choose for enjoying the moment and loving your loved people!! I’m going to take that with me for at least today 😀

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Saskia, I suspect the folks with the perfect house and the lovely couches probably are made happier by all that beauty. My house, when it is is clean, does make me happy, too! But many days I simply have to choose another course. Thank you for your kind words.

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