Friday, April 24, 2009

Keeping Short Accounts

I recently read a book called Higher Hope by Robert Whitlow. He writes Christian fiction books about southern lawyers, sort of in the style of John Grisham, but usually with a bit of the supernatural involved. I'm not a fan of all Christian fiction because it is sometimes a little bit too shiny on the surface without enough real-life grit. This particular author seems to do a pretty good job most of the time.

Anyway, the main character's mother in this latest book tells her legal assistant daughter to "keep short accounts".

And it really got me thinking. I've been thinking about it since I finished the book on Sunday afternoon and it's just kind of been there, stewing. Most of the time, I've heard that phrase in the context of our Christian faith but as I've considered it, I think it's a pretty good practice in most other areas of my life. I even sat down today and did a google search that turned up mostly confession/repentance issues, but almost as many hits about marriage.

When my hubby and I first got married, he would always talk about the importance of not letting a "wedge" get in between us. By that he meant we should talk about things that get stuck in our craw in regard to the other, before they fester and become major issues for one, but are nonexistent to their partner. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and while I try really hard to communicate with Scott when I'm mad/frustrated/irritated/concerned it doesn't always happen due to busy schedules and demanding children. But when we make the effort to communicate about what's bothering us, we can always solve the conflict without a knock-down drag out. Keeping short accounts is also a good practice in relationships with children, friends, parents, siblings--all people as a matter of fact. It really minimizes the misunderstandings and the episodes of conflict (and when you hate conflict as much as I do....anything that lessens the risk, is a GOOD thing.)

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this could spill over into other areas of my life that I allow to get out of control that then cause serious stress and effort getting them back under wraps.

Like my house. True confession: I would rather read a book, hang out with my kids, cruise the Internet, or watch FOX news than do housework (okay except cook). Almost always. And there's nothing innately bad with any of those things when the work is done. But lately, I've been making more of an effort to get the dishes all done and put away at the end of each day, pick-up the basement and living room before bed, and put all the laundry away when it's folded, not after it's been in the laundry basket for a week. I'm trying to make things work better too, like wiping down the sink, cleaning the toilet and sweeping the bathroom floor when the kids are in the tub, or folding laundry while I'm talking on the phone--speaker on, to diminish the crink in my neck. Another issue is always the fridge. I've been trying to do a better job of assessing whether or not we will actually eat what's left over, rather than just throwing it in the fridge to get pushed way into the back and become a fertile surface for green fuzz. I'm not a perfect house keeper, by any means, but by doing a little bit every day, it has made it a lot easier when it's time for friends to come over, and it's a lot less stressful to live in a place that's not just a mess everywhere I look.

My bookkeeping, both home and ranch, has also been the target of my "short accounting". I have been downloading and balancing statements monthly, rather than quarterly, and it has cut the process down to about a 10 minute job per account. I'm not a natural when it comes to bookwork, so less time tied to the Quickbooks software and checking account is a bonus!

Last fall, I made myself go out on a blustery day before a cold front hit in October to clean out my flour beds, till my garden and rake leaves. I wasn't thinking about it at the time, but it has made my spring work load considerably lighter! It's never fun to clip off the dead branches of once-beautiful flowers and throw the pricey petunias and other annual plants away. But now the beds are looking at me expectantly waiting for their new occupants, and I'm excited to get everything situated.

Now before you think I've just stated a lot of really obvious ideas, just keep in mind that I'm a 1st rate procrastinator, and I have been for 38 years, at least the ones I can remember. As I've grown up and now that I have kids of my own, I've decided that I want them to live in an organized world (at least an organized house) and that I want to be a good example of a doer, not a procrastinator.

I still have a long way to go. I don't get everything done as soon as it should be. I still have areas of my life that are seriously over-procrastinated and under-accomplished. I can think of 3 off the top of my head: the last 20-ish lbs I want to see disappear from my 5'11 frame, my daily time reading the Bible and journaling, and exercising. Those seem to be the 3 areas that I know are the most crucial for my spiritual and physical health, yet those are the areas that I always leave until last, or never. I'm hoping that the efforts in the other areas will spillover and that I'll become the organized, self-disciplined individual I have always aspired to be. Or maybe not.

But I'm working on it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

S-mallish Pirates

We had a big event here this last week: Benjamin turned 5 years old. To be born in April on a ranch is somewhat of a misfortune. Usually everyone is pretty busy with calving, spraying pre-plant chemical, or planting crop. When he was born, it was the Monday after Easter, and Daddy had to take a little time off from rolling pea fields to come in and hang with Mommy during labor and delivery. Other years, Benjamin shares his birthday with Easter, which is a great privilege, but that also complicatrs matters somewhat. We try to really make Easter a significant celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, and sometimes Ben's big day gets lost in the shuffle. Not that he really suffers, for crying out loud between big brothers and cousins hand me downs and the loot he rakes in on his own, he has more toys than most kids!
Lately, Ben has been really interested in pirates, boats, and the like, especially after Adam got a Mega-Blocks pirate ship for Christmas. So, a pirate party we planned. The Farmer's Wife helped with the design of the party hats that we made out of that rubbery-type craft paper. When I was in Billings last week, I found all kinds of cool pirate plunder at Party America:beads, "gold", treasure maps, bags, and chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. I jumped on-line to find some kind of a pirate cake and found lots treasure chest cakes, so I tried my hand at that.

I took Benjamin in for preschool on Wednesday, dashed home to put some food in the crock-pot for the crew working bulls to eat later on in the afternoon, then drove back in for the PARTY! We had bags of treasure, pirate hats, bandanas, and swords. After a meal of chicken fingers and fries, (taco salads for the moms) we had treasure chest cake and ice cream. It took a bit but after the little ones warmed up to each other, the kids had a rousing game of "pirate". As near as I could figure Pirate Ben and Pirate Billy had a pile of "treasure" that they were trying to keep safe from the Raiders Lacey, Laney and Alli--sounds like a tough gang huh? Between the high pitched pirate whistles (you'd think it was my first time around as a mom or something. I mean what was I thinking???) and the screeching pirates, I'm not sure the rest of the diners at the cafe' had a very peaceful lunch, but the party goers had a great time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy Easter, Country Style

This year we had the pleasure of having some old friends and new friends over for our Easter holiday. The Pluhars (old friends) and the Jaspers (new friends) came over in the afternoon about 4:30 p.m. to help celebrate the Easter holiday and Benjamin's 5th birthday. The menu included prime rib, McNeely potatoes (Karen Gs recipe), 7 Layer Salad courtesy of Naomi P., Peach/Pretzel Salad by the Farmer's Wife, homemade rolls, Au Jus and marinated mushrooms. We also shared a bottle of Chenin Blanc and some Fat Tire. It was quite a feed!

Flowers and wine, courtesy of Mrs. C.

Benjamin was lucky enough to be born in the spring of the year, along with the baby calves and the baby chicks, but sometimes he has to share his special day with Easter. This year we had lots of fun with Maggie and Angus to help us celebrate. After a great supper, the dads and kids headed out to do an Easter Egg hunt while the moms cleaned up and did dishes. The wind made the hunt a little shorter than expected, but the kids got lots of loot via the stuffed eggs, and they found all but one of the "real" eggs. It won't be an unexpected surprise after 100 degree August heat though. Luckily Benjamin found it on Monday while we worked in the yard.

He Is Risen

I had the privilege of singing with members of the praise team on Easter Sunday at our church, Grace Bible Church in Miles City. I occasionally sing on the praise team, and truthfully it is one of the neatest things to sing praise songs to our God with all the other church-goers.

This song has something about it that makes a person just sing and sing and sing it. I have had it running through my brain non-stop (with occasional "MOMMY" breaks) since Easter morning. It's always interesting to me to hear about the background of a song and the inspiration for the writing of a song. I'm including a link to a video of Chris Tomlin exploring that as well.

I hope you enjoy it!

P.S. Thanks Field Lily--I saw you do this in some of your posts and thought I'd give it a try...

Friday, April 3, 2009

So about those cats...

I'm sure you all remember the wonderful gift we got from our dear friends at Christmas: Phoebe and Fluffernutter. Yes them. Well, we are discovering all kinds of things about the feline members of our family. First of all, Phoebe is most definitely a female. And Fluffernutter is most definitely a male. So I would imagine there will be Phoebe-Nutters around here unless drastic measures are taken.

Secondly, I am remembering why I was not such a big fan of cats in the house.

1) Cat hair. I was putting my sweatshirt on this morning, and roamed around to do the morning tasks. When I finally started cooking lunch, I was done with the cornbread and well into the taco soup when I realized that I had enough white hair on my shirt to fully fur a month-old kitten. Not cool. Especially when you consider that 90% of my wardrobe is either navy blue, black, or brown. Plus for some reason there is apparently some attraction at the molecular level between the cat hair and the couch. It doesn't just hang out on the top of the fabric waiting to be vacuumed, it must be taken out with tweezers, much like plucking one's eyebrows, but I guess it doesn't hurt quite as bad.

2) Cat cuddling. Now don't get me wrong. There's nothing like having a
warm body to sleep near, especially when one tends to be a bit cold-blooded to start with. But when said body purrs to no end, and insists on nuzzling one's face (Yes it has to be the face. Not the neck, or back, or leg, or arm. The face.) sleeping with Phoebe can be especially challenging.

3) Cat on counter. Fluffer is probably more of a nuisance in this
particular category, but Phoebe has had her share of counter time too. They can have a perfectly full container of cat chow or fancy feast, or whatever the meal of the moment is, and they still insist on hopping up on the counter to lick, paw, and smell whatever it is that we ate, are eating or will eat. Cat-lick-marks in the butter is my absolute limit. I guess it has made me be certain everything is either covered, or put in the refrigerator remove the temptation.

4) And last, but not least, cat pee. Cat waste is probably the one thing
about indoor cats that make me the most crazy. Cleaning out the cat box,
isn't exactly my idea of a favored hobby. Although, I must say the clumping and deodorizing properties of kitty litter have come a long, long way since my last house cat in the late '80s. My dislike of cat pee probably stems from the fact that one time, my family bought a house in which no amount of shampooing could remove the smell of cats, so we ended up ripping up the carpet and replacing part of the sub-floor due to the seepage. Now if that doesn't give you a real mental picture.... So you can imagine my surprise and disgust when I walked into the bathroom last night to find...Phoebe. The 'good' cat. Peeing. On. My New Rugs. AAAaaarrrggghhh. I'm not sure what was going on there. She's the one I usually don't have to worry about. She's neat and clean. Her paws and fur are always meticulous. Why oh why was Phoebe peeing on my rugs?
Maybe because they're brown? Or because they had straw all over them from the inside of Ben's socks, pants and shirt? Or because Scott had dropped some dirt/manure on them from his spring-time dirty clothing? Who knows. All I know is that Phoebe got a healthy thunk on the head with my thumb and forefinger and a quick trip outside. Maybe she'll learn. Or maybe she'll learn to be an outside cat with occasional inside privileges....

We'll just have to wait and see.