Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Well, That was Not Awesome

Last week was our state fair.  As you may remember, our girls raised 4-H pigs--a first on every level for us.  Besides a dog and some fish, we have never had animals. Every aspect of the venture was new for us.  We had made every mistake possible in the road to fair, and we made every mistake possible during the fair itself.  It was a disaster.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let me back up.

Dad, Isaac and Eliza all have jobs and had differing schedules throughout the week.  They would be visiting us at the fair, but the rest of us would be staying there full time.  On Monday, I worked all day on preparations for the week.  Monday night, some dear friends helped us load our pigs into their horse trailer and carted them off to the fairgrounds for us. We met them there to at least get the tent up and unload a few things while I had big kids to help.  Some of the children were super helpful, others undid all that helpfulness by their nasty attitude. After giving the pigs a quick bath, loading the feeder and waterer and getting them settled for the night, we went home to finish preparations.

I got up Tuesday at 4 AM and worked solid until it was time to leave--iron and starch six shirts for the pig showing, pack food and supplies for seven for the week, print off forgotten pages for the book, provide provisions for the three staying home, etc. I also wrote out a complicated schedule to ensure that the two cars could get us all where we needed to be:

We left for the fairgrounds and got to work.  I had to finish creating a home for us for the week and the girls had work to do in the pig barn.  We had assumed all along that our pigs were going to be super small--way below the 230 pound requirement to sell the pigs at auction.  Camilla's pig weighed in at 228#, just two pounds shy.  No big deal--everyone told us that there were always a surplus of buyers looking for underweight pigs.  The day went as smoothly as could be expected for novices.  The girls showed their pigs and got red ribbons.

 They were absolutely adorable and were excited by the experience.

The little ones and I sat in the bleachers and cheered everyone on.

After the long, hot day, the little one and I were glad for a cool bit of grass to lay down for reprieve.

Moments after I sent this picture to my husband as an update on how things were going at the fair, I sent the following text:

                   Right after I sent that picture, all hell broke loose.  Poop, crying, fighting, mad mom, the works.
                   I think we're back in control.  I'm eating, which helps.

It was, thankfully, time to sleep.  We were all exhausted.  We settled in and tried let the 2000 generators in camper village lull us to sleep. It took a while, but the sandman did eventually find us.

The next morning started at 3:55 AM.  Our club had voted to muck stalls and wash pigs at 4 in the morning so they didn't have to compete with the other 200 kids trying to tend to their pigs. The girls showed a second time (my phone battery died, so no pictures) where they each received blue ribbons, then we had some time to enjoy the fair.

Eliza found her project.
 They toured the exhibits, rode a couple of rides (and learned rides aren't worth the money), ate an elephant ear and enjoyed a frozen lemonade.

So far, so good.  Dad was able to come for awhile which was a giant help to me. 
The girls were having a great 4-H experience, the pig part of the event was going well, and they were making friends.

 The only minor tragedy was when Camilla lost her $20 fair money.  Not the end of the world, but certainly disappointing! They did enjoy barn duty, where they took turns with their club mates tending to the pigs, keeping the area clean, and greeting fair visitors.  

Lucy especially enjoyed seeing friends, answering questions, and introducing children to the pigs.

I was not getting enough sleep and couldn't get enough to drink. I had five children under the age of 12 at the fair . . . in August . . . one of them being a fearless and independent 3 year old . . . another a 3 month old who needed frequent nursing and otherwise lived in the baby bjorn. Our biggest pig was sold right away, so I spent the rest of the week sending texts and posting on Facebook trying to sell our smaller, 150 pound pig. No takers.  I also had to give up my fair money, so I didn't get a caramel apple.  

I was being brave, but was beginning to unravel.

Whatever the case, there was no stopping now!  Before the finals showing, there was a peewee pig showing.  This is where the younger siblings of the 4-H kids got to show the pigs.  Both of our younger two participated.  It was a little insane, but at least I knew right where the three year old was for a solid 10 minutes! 

In the overalls with the blue plaid shirt.
Leading the pig along like an old pro!
All three of the youngers in the frenetic peewee pig show.
They got a sucker for a prize.
My eight year old was mad that she didn't get a ribbon.  She worked hard, dang it!

I tried to keep him clean, I really did.
One night, after all of our pig duties were fulfilled, we headed to the rodeo.  It was Friday night and the place was packed.  I lined my kids up by the fence and wiggled my bum into a small spot on the front bleacher.  The kids' behavior was overall good.  They were enjoying the rodeo, clapping and having fun.  I held the baby and the toddler on my lap most of the time and was, I thought, doing my job well.  At one point, the eight year old wanted to hold her baby sister.  I handed her over and cuddled tightly with the three year old, while I pointed out things that were happening in the arena.  The two sisters were being cute together, smiling and jabbering back and forth.

This little idyllic moment was when the woman sitting behind me leaned forward and spoke into my ear.
"Get your tubes tied, B*#@*."
I was aghast.  I turned and, sure she was messing around with me, asked if she was serious.
She nodded, venom in her eyes.

I have never been so close to getting in a fist fight in my life.  If I hadn't been training myself over the last 17 years being a parent to control my temper and retrain man's natural instinct to physically lash out to offenders, I would have hit that woman.  In fact, for a couple of days after the incident, I thought I should have!  I told her she should be ashamed of herself; she flipped me off.  Blood boiling, I stood and told the kids it was time to go.

I spent the next several hours quaking with anger.  How dare she?!  She doesn't know me, she doesn't know my story!  I thought of fabulous, biting comebacks (that she wouldn't have heard).  I envisioned dramatic scenarios where she was shamed into a submissive apology and the crowd cheered (and could have ended with my arrest, but that's beside the point).

I spent the rest of the night crying.

Her comment cut me to the core.  She doesn't know how I constantly doubt my ability to effectively mother all seven of my babies.  She didn't know that I had spent nearly the whole week at the fair, trying to help two of my children develop character traits that they need to be upstanding citizens, effective mothers, and useful women of God.  She doesn't understand the physical strain I was under, the financial sacrifices I'd made and the fact that I had been at the fair all week and hadn't had a single caramel apple!

To put icing on the cake, after we got back to our tent and I was trying to get everyone settled in for the night, my little guy jumped on my air mattress and fell.  Unfortunately, the wheelbarrow the girls had been using for cleaning the pig pens was right next to the tent.  He cracked his head on the wheelbarrow and split his forehead wide open.  He would need stitches.

The woman at the rodeo was right.  I was worthless as a mother.

I threw in the towel and called my husband to come pick us up.  We needed to fix a forehead and sleep in our own beds.  I could not do anymore.

 The next morning, I was somewhat better.  We all showered, pulled our shoulders back, lifted our heads, and went back to the fair.  The girls needed to be in the pig barn and I didn't want to interact with people, so we went to the tractors.

And stood in line (again) to get faces painted (again).

Then we took a picture of every cutout at the fair (except one because the cutouts were too high).

It was actually a very nice morning. I was reminded that I am not the worst mother on the planet.  That my role is divine and that that woman was a mouthpiece for the devil himself--my God could NEVER be so cruel.

We held hands and laughed and I breathed and enjoyed them.

There was one more day of fair and one more pig to sell . . .  I will have to tell you that story tomorrow; this post is already long enough!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Fair Week

Here we go!
The Sanders Family Fair Debut

Setting up pens in the pig building.

They are excited and nervous.
(I am stressed and exhausted.)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Summer Kid's Club: Book and a Movie

As a summer project, we decided to have a book club for our middle girls.  We held a children's book club for four years when my older kids were younger, but after we moved (and didn't have room in our trailer for ourselves, much less guests), we never got it going again.  Since we were doing it in the summer, we decided to have regular book club, followed by the book's movie.  It took me so long to decide which books had good enough movie companions to satisfy my stuffy tastes.

Anne of Green Gables club meeting.  Enjoying a mid-movie scavenger hunt/leg stretch.

In the end, I decided on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Anne of Green Gables.  We invited children ages 8-12 because I've discovered over the years that younger kids have a hard time participating in the book discussion part of the event.  (Though, I do make case by case exceptions.)

Aslan craft.
 For the summer, we met from 11a-3p once a month.  The first thing we always do is the book discussion.  This is a vital part of the event.  It is important to me that the children learn to discuss books, think about ideas, and share insights.  It takes practice for some children while others need a bit of tempering because they are SO EXCITED about what they've just read.  With some books, it is like pulling teeth to come up with 20 minutes worth of discussion, other books (like Anne of Green Gables yesterday), we could have spent and hour and a half talking about just the one story!

A sampling of the treats at the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory club meeting.
 After we talk about the book, the kids need food.  For the summer, since they were here for so long, I fixed them a full lunch.  During the school year, it is a much simpler snack.  The food is always related to the book, for instance we had cabbage soup like Charlie Bucket, bacon and scones like Bilbo Baggins, tea and toast like Mr. Tumnus and Lucy, and so forth.  Whenever possible, I read a quote from the book or remind the kids where that food is found in the story.

Engineering activity.

Once we've educated and fed the beasts, we play!  I always try to have lots of fun, moving activities.  I try to change it up so sometimes we do a craft, other times we do an experiment, we go outside and having a running or jumping game and otherwise keep it happy and loud.  What we avoid is crossword puzzles, spelling words, or other holding still activities.  Those certainly have a place, but not at book club.

Chocolate slime!

During the summer, we then get ourselves to the cool basement to watch a movie.  During the school year, we skip that step because we don't have the luxury of all day.

Our first book was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which some would consider a "boy's book."  When it came time for our August pick, Anne of Green Gables, there was groaning from the boys.  I gave them a mighty lecture about not judging a book to be a "boy book" or a "girl book" without giving it a try.  One 10 year old boy took me up on my challenge and he gave Anne a chance.  His mom later reported that he loved the book and thought Anne and her antics were hilarious.  
YES!  Converting a generation one kid at a time.
This is one of my favorite aspects of a book club:  it invites us to try reading books we may have otherwise not chosen. Who knows but that book becomes a favorite.

My book clubs aren't Pinterest worthy, but the kids don't notice.  The best compliment came from one little girl whose mother made her come.  "I thought this was going to be boring, but this was like a birthday party!"  A birthday party that reinforces reading and the life-changing lessons offered in books.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Field Trip Summer: Crystal Gold Mine

This week we went to a gold mine that was abandoned in the early 1880's and not rediscovered until 1996.
The thing that I found particularly valuable was that because the mine was never used in modern times, we got a glimpse into the mining techniques and practices of nearly 150 years ago--a time before electricity (at least in the wild west), cars, large machinery, or power tools.

The mine was lit with modern light bulbs, yet we were still given flashlights to be able to see into the dark corners and better spy minerals in the ore.

At one point our guide turned off the lights. If any of you have been to a cave or mine similar to this, you know how absolutely dark it is underground.  He then lit a candle, a candle similar in size to one used by those original miners. It was not very bright!  It was interesting to learn the techniques those pioneers used to help them discover gold and find their way around in the pitch blackness.

Several of the mines in the area have been closed, mostly due to government regulation.  The couple who run this mine tour are native to the area and have worked the mines.  They are passionate about preserving the history of the area, which is part of why they do such a good job here.

Outside the mine there were several rail cars and carts, relics of those closed mines.

 They also had several troughs filled with sand carted down the mountain from local streams.  There were actually gold flecks in there!  Instead of other operations where you pan for fool's gold, these kids were actually panning for actual gold!

It was very cool to have the guy demonstrate how they would have done it (still do--lot's of hobby gold panners in our area) and then to let us have a go.  

Our state is known as the gem state and for good reason.  The kids also found lots of interesting agates, including my birthstone, the garnet, in the tubs.

The group rate made this field trip much more affordable, but it was still one of the more expensive trips of the summer.  However, by the time the kids got into the car, they each had small bags filled with these gems--easily worth the price of admission had we purchased the stones separately.  I do think the tour was worth the price, just because of the unique aspect of the tour and the experience of the guide.  Since he knew we were a school group, he gave us a few more bits and facts about the geology of the mine and of Silver Valley in general.  Overall, they did an excellent job of teaching us.

 Right after this picture was taken, our eight year old tripped, breaking her front tooth.  It was a sad end to the morning, but made worse because she felt jilted in her hunt for gold and gems.  After cleaning up her wounds and comforting her the best I was able, I went to call the children back to the car.  As I walked up to tell them we needed to go, they were compiling their stones and dividing them equally so that the hurt sister didn't have to go home empty handed.  That was sweet, but the best part was that it was initiated by the sister who fights most frequently with her.  That was the highlight of my day.

Off to the dentist!