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Parenting is quite the journey. You begin armed with opinions that fit right along certain rails, you know your destination and you know what train to board to arrive. There are plenty of travel guides with all of the answers.

But somewhere along the track you’re thrown for a loop. The train breaks down and you see how useless the time table issued  is when you are dealing with individuals. Sometimes this realization is gradual, sometimes it is sudden.

A noticeable shift toward uncertainty occurs in most parents of teenagers. We now offer each other more empathy and listening than advice, our troubles no longer fixed by a timely potty training tip. The stakes have been raised on us,  the consequences greater. Those early years were just a trial run. We suspect that we’ve either messed up our kids by following the rules or by not following the rules.

Those teen years. You can deny that they exist, it’s been insisted that they’re an artificially created era. A body could use this argument as an excuse to treat  teenagers as children or adults. One can combine the two by giving them the responsibilities of adults with none of the privileges of adulthood or all the privileges of adulthood and none of the responsibilities. My goal is to do neither. I want to embrace these teen years with all of the beautiful uncertainty and to make the most of them . These years seem to shape our lives as few other years do. In our memories these years stretch into long formative years, in our experience they take forever. These years are challenging. Your children still need your guidance but they also crave  independence. They need firm boundaries, but lots of room to explore. They need room to make mistakes, but not enough room to ruin their lives, yet. You may be able to control their behavior, but their hearts are not so easily swayed. As parents, we know that the decisions that truly matter are now their own, and that terrifies us.


There is a wonder and joy is seeing the almost magical emergence of an adult from a child, yet there is also the sorrow of seeing the child disappear. Not to be too depressing or anything. I’m not sure that joy and sadness have been separate emotions for me since beginning on this particular journey. There is a susceptibility to  being carried away by these emotions and missing the yesteryears, instead of embracing, even celebrating these years.

Yes, these years have unique challenges, but we should not dread them or fall into the trap of ‘ugh, teenagers’ Why do we do that? I get tons of ‘stranger sympathy’ about having teenage girls, as if they’re more trouble than puppies and bound to make your life difficult. I want to embrace these teenage years. I want to affirm the people that they are becoming and guide them, mentor them. As our children transition, so must I. We move from being an authority to a mentor, and relationships must grow to survive.  It is undeniably awkward at moments, because we must walk that line, we must ‘be the adult’ but it is also time to be friend and equals. Sometimes, walking that line feels as awkward as the teen years themselves.  Walking this balance is so much more than a list of do’s and don’ts. It requires relationship, it requires involvement.  Transitions are never easy.

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Review of Ivanhoe 1982 movie

Just for fun, I thought I’d occasionally review our weekend movie, especially if it is old or forgotten or good or stupid and I just want to tell my opinion without being interrupted.

Last weekend it was a blast from the past, Ivanhoe. I’m pretty sure that seeing part of this movie is what made me read the book when I was a kid.

Ivanhoe returns from one of the crusades with the ‘Good King Richard’ to find his name sullied and his girl betrothed to another. Right behind him is Brian De Bois-Guilbert. This name is pronounced differently by all the actors in this film; our household settled on Sir Brian de Boogeybear as being the most accurate entertaining pronunciation. De Bois-Guilbert  is a Knight Templar, you may note that Sir Walter Scott’s opinion of said group doesn’t quite jive with the National Treasure version.

There’s a bit of fighting, they fight to defend their honor, the honor of their favorite ladies, the honor of the Saxons, and evil John is killing people left and right to maintain his grip on the English Throne, the usual medieval stuff. The violence is regular and wide-spread, with many stabbings and a high body count. All this violence was stagey enough to leave my kids unconcerned.                          The leading ladies are Rowena and Rebecca. First, De Bois-Guilbert makes some eyes at Rowena, bringing the ire of all the Saxon men upon his foul self. Then Rebecca, a beautiful Jewish girl, happens on the scene accompanied by her father. De Bois-Guilbert pursues her relentlessly, kidnaps her and is, according to him, determined to possess her soul. Right, her soul. Because that’s what they all really want you know.  Then we have this scene.


At this point can you hate De Bois-Guilbert anymore? Here he suddenly is not the villain anymore, sure he’s going to get her killed and is trying to make her accept him under duress, but  he’ll buy her books, that makes up for it all. This is the moment Rebecca herself, a paragon of virtue, falters for a second, but no, she is made of sterner stuff than the rest of us.

Ivanhoe sweeps in and manages to rescue Rebecca, and then returns, although not completely happy, to the rather boring Rowena. De Bois-Guilbert of course, dies for his crimes, but he dies a changed man.

It’s been quite a while since I read this book, so it’s a little hard to try to compare the two. In a couple of ways the movie was superior to the book; First because it purges the story of any anti-Semitic tone lingering in the book. Secondly, it adds complexity to De Bois-Guilbert. His character eclipses Ivanhoe’s in the movie as Rebecca eclipses Rowena in the book. Not being a dissertation of any sort  this flippant review is certainly not going to cover the symbolism between the Saxons and the Normans. Nor shall we discuss the ‘Good King Richard.’ (Snort)

Non-nerdy children may not enjoy this movie, but if your family enjoys complicated period adventures combined with a generous dash of melodrama, this one may be worth digging out of the dusty ‘80s.

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Let’s talk some chicken…

Beware the Internet. Anything you desire can be bought in a click. Procrastination is usually a good protection for this, but this defense failed me one day last spring, as I was browsing the McMurray hatchery website. You don’t have to order chickens from this hatch date, you can pick a hatch date that is weeks in advance. A brilliant trap. Gleefully, I placed my order for 50 (or so) meat  chicks. Marcus’ glee did not match mine when I broke the cheerful news, but he took it in stride – after all it will result in meat on the table and our lodge will not go hungry.

On the appointed day, the post office called to inform me that my chickabiddies had arrived. We were ready for them. The idea of 50 chickens and the reality of 50 chickens are two different things. One smells better and the other eats more.

Then they just kept growing and eating, and eating and growing. It was shocking how quickly they went from cute little babies to ugly adolescent chickens.Image

Cornish Cross chickens are different from my lovely laying hens. They’re a hybrid, bred to eat and grow. They are like the chicken undead, Zombie Chickens. I had to give a real chicken the unpleasant task of moving in with them to teach them how to be proper chickens, my good tempered Americana embarked on this duty, and it did help. I’m not sure they could catch any fast moving bugs but they did move away from the feeder and get a little exercise chasing earthworms.

Typical North Idaho weather means virtually no rain in July and August;  Typical North Idaho weather is a chimera, a delusion and a snare.

Upon hearing the pelting roar of rain on the metal roof above my bed, I knew that as a responsible keeper of dumb clucks, I must check on my charges.  As I feared,  Zombie Chickens lack the sense to come in from the rain and must be scooped out of puddles and mud, like rank wet living laundry, and set inside their despised shelter. Every rainy night this thrilling event was repeated, and there were several. I think they started waiting for me to move them, but something you’re intending to eat is entitled to a certain amount of payback.

letstalkchicken2Butchering day was not met with sorrow – we were ready to see those things go. We set up an assembly line and assembled away. We told the girls it was family togetherness day, and they fell for it. They’re great sports. “It’s amazing how fast they go from chickens to chicken,” observed one of my cheerfully plucking daughters. And she was right, although it wasn’t fast enough to tempt us to quit our day jobs and start a mobile chicken butchering business.

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Good-bye, Hector

Our sweet Golden Retriever, Hector wasn’t ever very healthy and the time  came last month that we knew we had to let him go. The vet had let us know that it was likely stomach cancer and there is just not anything they can do about it. We miss Hector. He was a beautiful dog and had all the positive characteristics of his breed.

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Wordless Weekend

Because sometimes you just don’t need words.

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How not to de-horn goats.

You are riding on the range. Suddenly, Bad Nosed Bill rides up behind you and asks, “Would you like me to shoot a hole in your head?” What do you say dear?

from What Do You Say Dear? by Sesyle Joslin

There is a reason the devil has horns in most popular depictions. Horns are scary. Goats also have horns. The remedy for this condition involves holding a tiny cute baby goat down and burning the heck out of the horn buds. And I, wimp of the year, klutz extraordinaire, didn’t quite get the heck burnt out of the horn buds I did.

The vet quoted me a reasonable price to sedate them and burn them. Ah ha! Problem solved, thought I. Down they will go to the vet, the vet will fix my stupid bumbling error, and it will be all better.

The vet gave them a sedative and they staggered and went down within minutes. Then she clipped off the existing horn so that we could get to the bud. This left a hole, as in two extra holes, in the heads of Tani and Othello. The holes are into the sinus cavity, perhaps no worse than having a couple extra nostrils, but it is a bit disconcerting. (Read Shannon was silently freaking out while gazing deeply into the brain of her goat.) The vet then held a burning hot iron onto the bud and burned it, careful not to leave the iron applied too long, again and again, until the job was done correctly. (Think smoke from burning hair, blood, and a screaming writhing baby goat held on the ground by two respectable middle-class women.)

This is the only picture available of this joyful experience. I wish you could really see down into the hole; it was quite fascinating.

The vet instructed me to pack the holes with gauze, and keep it fly sprayed. Don’t want any guests! Large animal vets earn every penny they make. This was my first experience with a large animal vet and I was very impressed with her. It must be an incredibly demanding life.

If you plug a goat head hole with gauze, the goat will probably knock it out.

If the goat knocks it gauze out, it will probably get hay in its head.

If it gets hay in its head you are going to need to take it out, for this you will need tweezers, and a big strong man to hold the goat down.

If you put a hole in a goats head maybe you should patch it. For this you will want super glue… and vet tape.

Life is full of new experiences. Try to avoid this one.

Lessons learned:

1.It may seem cruel to hold a baby goat down and burn the heck out of it, but it is nothing compared to what will happen if you have to do it again later.

2. If one is going to keep animals, one should procure a bottle of strong drink, regardless of religious background.

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