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Back when I was pretty, then not pretty, then pretty, then not pretty…

When the Zanimal was in preschool and still called Little Z, we used to ride together in the morning. I would take her to preschool, and then go on to work. She went through this phase when she was three or four years old, when she would tell me when I looked pretty, and when I did not look pretty.

“You are pretty today,” she would say.

“Oh, thank you.”

“Why do you say, ‘thank you’?” she asked.

“It’s a nice thing to say.”

“Oh.”

Then, another day, she would say,

“You are not pretty today.”

What?! I was so hurt.

“That’s not a nice thing to say. You shouldn’t say that.”

“Why not say that? It’s just a fact,” she said.

“It’s just a fact that I’m not pretty?!”

“Yes.”

I was so hurt, I couldn’t respond.

But then, the next day, she might say that I was pretty again. And then the next day, not pretty. And so on. I could never convince her to stop saying it out loud when I was “not pretty.” I resigned myself to the fact that I had somehow produced a monster.

Then, after a long time, I started to see a pattern. I had an idea.

“Do you just say that I’m ‘pretty’ when I’m wearing a dress or a skirt, and I’m ‘not pretty’ when I’m not wearing a dress or a skirt?”

She looked at me like I was the biggest idiot in the universe.

“Yes,” she said. “Pretty ladies wear dresses.”

Oh. My. God.

Pretty.

Not pretty.
I think about this experience from time to time. I wonder how many other things I’ve taken personally that weren’t really meant that way at all?

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The End of Plumbing

My dear sweet daughter offered to clean the cat’s litter box last Saturday morning. What a sweetheart! I was sitting and eating my breakfast. 

“Can I clean off the bottom really well? You don’t seem to ever really clean it that well,” she called from the bathroom.

“Sure. Of course.” I was drinking my coffee.

Lots of scrubbing noises…

“Can I just take a shower with the litter box? That way I can clean both me and the litter box at the same time!” She said.

“Wait, what?”

Just then, Badass Husband wandered downstairs. 

“She’s got it full of water! The cat box is on the counter full of water!!” He said.

“Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god! What? No! No shower with the litter box! ” I screamed. “Did you pour the litter down the sink! Did you? Did you? ”

“No,” she said. “No, not yet!”

“NEVER PUT CLUMPING CAT LITTER DOWN THE DRAIN,” we both screamed. Complete parenting solidarity, achieved! 

Then I grabbed the cat litter box full of water and ran outside and dumped it. I saved the day. Right? 

And then we discussed how one goes about cleaning a cat litter box: 1. Use a scoop. 2. No water. 3. Nothing ever goes down the drain. 4. Everything goes in the trash. 

Then we cleaned the toothbrushes, which were splattered with dirty cat litter. Because of one child, with good intentions. 

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An Upper Midwestern Spring

We have so much to do around here in Spring. There are lambs being born, meat chickens to take care of, plants to start indoors and transplant, mowing, weeding, planting, end of school stuff, planning for summer stuff, 4-h events, registering for the fair, getting all of our ducks in a row for summer camps and classes for the Zanimal. Other people say, with a smile, “Wow, it’s spring!” and we who live on farms laugh nervously and say, “Yes, Wow.” But we mean wow in a different way. Add to that all, for me, a book release. It’s a bit overwhelming. So, I’m just going to jump around here a bit, ready?

Part 1: Lambing Season

We’ve got lambs! Four lambs, now. We may have four more by the end. Professor Batty came to visit between two lambs and four lambs.  I’m happy to say Viola finally had her lambs! Two of them, both black, one male, one female. The morning before last, I went out to check on her, and they were just born- still gooey. She was licking them off. She seems proud of herself, as she should be.

The following day, I was going to castrate the male (in case we want to keep him- I hate the logistics of separating a male all of the time, so I just castrate them) and Zanimal was super excited for me to show her how to do it! So, I did. I used the “*teeth” method. Joking. I used the band method. She hugged the lamb and I — well, you can imagine. She hugged the girl lamb, too, and I docked her tail. Zanimal is now “Official Lamb and Sheep Hugger.” Whenever I need a sheep to hold still for me, I am to call on her, and we will do a Good Cop/ Bad Cop deal: she will hug them and I will hurt them (albeit for their own good, of course).

  • Some shepherds bite off the rams’ balls with their teeth to castrate them. It’s effective. Yep. Not crazy at all.

    Part 2: The Self Portrait

Speaking of the Zanimal, at the end of the year, she just brings home backpacks full of trash. Among all of the crap, I found this gem:

A self portrait, clearly. I really like a few things about it.

  1. It’s not symmetrical. The one thing I’ve learned from doing lots of portraits is that people are not nearly as symmetrical as I thought they were. She seems to know that instinctively.
  2. She didn’t show it to me. She doesn’t care about this portrait. She’s modest, maybe. I don’t know. I’m just glad she didn’t put me on the spot about it.
  3. It looks like her- which is an important aspect of a portrait, you have to admit.

Part 3: Summertime

So, today I was mowing and weeding and putting a tarp up for Viola and her lambs to lie under (it’s hot). And tomorrow, I’ll do more of the same. And next week, more of the same, plus the Zanimal is home from school.

Things speed up over the summer. Wisconsinites wake up one day and come out of their holes and there are parties! Parades! Beer Festivals! Art Fairs! Brats! Bands! And on and on, all summer long, and then we’ll look back and wonder where it all went? And every year, I think What the heck am I going to do with this kid all summer? Because I like her, I really do, but I feel a bit of pressure to be entertaining or educational. Creative. I’m a creative type, you know. It’s expected of me. But I also, at heart, feel that children do better when they entertain themselves. So there’s the constant, “Let’s do this fun thing! (After this list of chores.)” But also the, “Do your own thing, I’m busy!” kinds of days. And also, of course, the “Let’s go to the lake. It’s hot” kinds of days.

Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is, I may not be blogging much. We’ll see.

Part 4: The Mystery of the Runners

When we first moved here from Colorado, we lived on the Isthmus in Madison, and we noticed all of these nearly naked people running by. Just running by, all summer long. Always, they looked straight ahead and did not acknowledge that we were there. Fast people, wearing shorts and shoes or shorts and sports bra and shoes, and that was all. And we wondered where they all came from, and where were they all going? After living here a few years, I *discovered that they just wake up one morning and say, “It’s time.” They take off their clothes, put on their shoes, and they start running around the lakes. And they run all summer. They never stop running. Day and night, they run, until the nights get cold again. And then they stop. They put away their shoes. And they sleep until next summer.

Of course, there are outliers- there always are, with any group. There’s the lady who runs up Gammon, all the way to Woodman’s West, at any time of day. What is her deal? Sometimes you’ll see her on PD, too. I mean, she only runs on the busiest roads. And long distances. You can be in town all day and see her twice, seven hours apart, running, still running. So strange. Lately, she’s been carrying a cell phone and talking on it constantly while she runs.

I, too, have taken up running- indoors. On a treadmill. After injuring my ankle a few years ago during a mud run, it took a year to heal, so I am very wary of uneven terrain. Baby steps. I’m starting again on a treadmill. I listen to The Gist while I run. The Gist is the perfect time: about 27 minutes. Two miles, plus a cool down lap. A nice jog. I imagine Mike Pesca running beside me, never getting out of breath, interviewing famous people, right there in my basement. This is not strange. This is where I belong.

Part 5: Too Much Sun

Is it just me, or is this the most rambling thing I’ve ever written on here? I’ll blame it on the sun.

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The Ghost

My daughter brought this book home from the fourth grade book swap. 

The fourth grade book swap just isn’t what it used to be, is it? They grow up so fast. Sigh. 

Inside the back cover, we read that this book is about a newly divorced Londoner who goes to Vermont and stumbles upon a two hundred year old diary of a beautiful lady, who manifests to him in person, somehow. 

The end of the synopsis reads, “In The Ghost, Danielle Steel brilliantly interweaves past and present, bringing to life two stories, centuries apart, in a timeless novel of courage, healing, and love.”

Sounds great for a nine year old reader. Except, it needs horses, doesn’t it? I suggest Steel change all of the characters in this book to either horses or puppies, to make it more palatable for the fourth grade book swap crowd.

Although, in defense of including it, it does actually say, “Everybody reads Danielle Steel” on the back cover.


What is up with this author photo, by the way? I so want an author photo of myself like this. Could anyone help me with this? 

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The Music of Childhood

Zanimal and I always listen to The Decemberist’s album The King is Dead in the car, when I’m chauffeuring her around, as parents do these days.

We hypothesize that Avery is a cat.

I think someday, she will hear the Decemberists and be brought magically back to her childhood drives with me.

This is the song that brings me back to my childhood:

Not because we played it in the car when my parents drove me around (I’m too old for that, nobody drove their kids around in the seventies and eighties) but because my dad practiced playing it himself over and over again, on the pedal steel. And then played it at gigs where I tagged along. This version actually sounds wrong to me, because it’s not my dad playing. I can’t find a recording of my dad playing that particular song, but here’s a nice one:

Zanimal just came home and would rather watch a Bad Lip Reading of the Empire Strikes Back, which I have to admit is just amazing:

Kids!

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This is Net. 

This afternoon, my daughter and I played a friendly game of, Let’s Spread Out That Net We Found at the Dumps Today and See How Big It Is! 

For better or worse, we don’t have trash service. The up side is that we find treasures occasionally. I’ve been wanting some netting to prop up the hops plants. I brought this net home from the dumps in the truck. It was heavy. 

We spread it out on the lawn. It was surprisingly great in size.

Zanimal pretended she was a giant squid. I caught her in my net. She was delighted. 


No tricks of the camera; this net is big! Bigger than our whole yard in Madison. 

There were several holes in it. The holes were mended with quick connectors and ropes. Zanimal collected all of the quick connectors. (The hops won’t care if there are holes.) 

She gathered them together and tied them around her waist with a rope. 

Now she’s trying to sell all of the quick connectors back to me, fifty cents each. I told her I didn’t have any cash. Bad Assed Husband backed me up, 

“It’s true,” he said. “We’re living in a post-cash society.” 

I appreciated that. Solidarity is important when parenting. 

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The Valentine Receptical 


Fourth grade. This is the box where the other kids will put her Valentines. Valentines are a big deal, apparently. Zanimal said, “I want to win the contest. I mean, there isn’t a contest, but I want it to be like if there were a contest, I would be the one to win it, you know?” 

And then she made us this: 


And now our table looks like this:


Happy Valentine’s Day.

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It’s a blog, but it’s by a kid!

bunny sleigh ride

My kid, actually. Ever wonder what it’s like to be a nine year old girl living in rural Wisconsin in 2016? Then “Zanimal” is the blog for you. She just started it a few days ago, and so far Big Z has covered the following compelling topics:

  • Is our cat playing an endless game of “hot lava”?
  • Some people think eating your Advent calendar chocolates make it snow.
  • Taking your rabbit for a sleigh ride: does the rabbit enjoy it?
  • Candy the Sheep is a sheep.
  • Our family Christmas traditions.
  • All about Vimpires.
  • What to do about Adventure Time being cancelled.
  • How did the Jangle Soapworks Open House go?

bunny sleigh ride

The address is zelma.sytes.net. I’m pretty sure it’s the best blog by a nine-year-old ever. (I’m not biased at all.)

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Cinderella Story

Marceline

 

Cinderella
How Z’s classmates see her.
Marceline
How Z sees herself.Two things about Big Z (Age 9):

Two things about Big Z (Age 9):

1. She almost never misses school.

2. She doesn’t like Disney princesses.

So, when she missed a few hours of school this morning for a doctor’s appointment, and she got back after only a half day gone, and they said they had cast her as Cinderella in a class play? That was pretty funny.

There’s always a gap, isn’t there, between how other people see us, and how we see ourselves? Or, you know, maybe it was just that no one wanted to be Cinderella.