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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy Anniversary

Today is my Ninth anniversary.

I have a poor memory.  I cannot recall memories the way others can.  I remember things through pictures and I remember feelings, but I don't remember events well.  I think it is strange because my mom has amazing recall on so many things.  I wish I had her talent because I remember very little from my youth -even the last nine years, with so many things I want t remember, I don't.

I remember only one thing vividly about our wedding day.  Well, I guess not just one thing, but this memory has come to be significant.

A little back story first:

When Erik and I were dating, it was such a whirlwind romance that we would often just stop and say to each other, "What were you doing last year at this time?"  We met November 17, 2000, were "pre-engaged" in February 2001,(you can read the story of our pre-engagement here) engaged June 2001 and married December 29, 2001.

Earlier in the day, I had given a grooms gift to my soon to be brother in law to give to Erik.  It was a pocket watch and I included a card saying, "What were you doing last year at this time?"

We had an early evening wedding - 4:00 p.m.  I really don't remember much about the day other than my girlfriend and sorority sister, Irene, had to wake me up on my wedding day.  I remember her shaking me, "Wake up!  You're getting married!"  Irene was my Matron of Honor.

I remember just before walking down the aisle, I was left all alone in the hallway adjacent to the church entrance.  It was the first time in days I had been completely alone.  I hadn't been emotional at all - I was too happy to cry!  But as I stood there alone and waited, I started to get a little overwhelmed, and just as the tears started to come, my dad peeked around the corner and put his left arm up as if checking his watch and then tapped it as if to say, "Come on! You're going to be late."  That made me laugh and he extended his arm and we headed to the doors of the church for him to walk me down the aisle.

I remember that Erik managed to put my ring on the correct hand.  And I put mine on his RIGHT hand.  Then throughout the unity candle lighting and song, we laughed and laughed because we couldn't get the ring off his right hand and on his left hand.  We joked that we weren't officially married because of that!

I remember being moved by the message Erik's mentor, Jim Cossin, gave.  I remember him saying something along the lines of us being a good match - you could see that I was calm and collected and that Erik couldn't stand still.  Which he couldn't - he was a nervous nellie standing up there shifting back and forth and twitching.  It was so beautiful to have someone who knew Erik so well from his youth speak about his growth into a man.  It was such a great honor to have Jim part of our ceremony.  

 I don't remember this moment, but I LOVE the way the photo shows off the detail of my wedding gown!

Our wedding party

My Maid of Honor and childhood best friend, Keely.  

We're wed!  Leaving the church.  Everyone was supposed to light their sparklers but I think they were so short, they burned too fast!

Entering our reception.

Cutting the cake.  

As much of an eyesore as it is, I'm so grateful this clock was in the picture.  I now know forever that at 8:27 on Saturday, December 29, 2001, we were cutting our cake and feeding each other.

The groomsmen dressed up for YMCA.

The last photo we would have with my Grammie.
 Our "goodbye" shot.

Almost all of our guests!

My first boys giving a kiss to their old, "Miss Jen."  The boy on the left is a sophomore at CMU.  The boy on the right is a senior in High School.  I met them when they were about 2 and 4 years old.

Anyway, the whole point of this story is that I vividly remember being pronounced man and wife and walking out of the church.  As we did, I happened to look up at the clock in the church and the clock said 4:34.  After so many months of planning, and so much time waiting, our actual marriage ceremony only took 34 minutes!  It didn't feel like it had happened so fast, but there it was, proof that it only took 34 minutes to make it official.

I think of that often as the days, weeks, months and years pass.  I look at my little family and reminisce about how fast these past nine years have gone - and get scared about how fast the next nine years are going to go.  I wonder if Erik and I will be sitting in rocking chairs in our front porch (in my future, I imagine we have actually completed the exterior of our house and we do finally put on a front porch) and saying, "What were we doing 20, 30, 50 years ago at this time?"  And we'll remember how we were afraid Walker would have malformed feet because he would kick his heels on the floor so hard anytime he laid on his back.  We'll remember how Maggie bossed her brothers around from the minute she could speak.  How we thought Will was going to get us arrested for child abuse because every time we turned around he was running into chairs, doors, walls, trees - and we'll remember how pleasant Whit was as a baby.  How the only time he ever cried was when he was tired or hungry.  

And we'll remember the love.   We have all of these memories and so many more to come, all because two people fell in love.  

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Baby Changes Everything

It about an hour, I will officially be 35.  My mom told me yesterday on the phone that she would talk to me at my birth time as she has done for as long as I have been old enough to be awake at 1:11 am.  When I lived with her, she would wake me up and say, "It's your birthday!" or in recent years she calls or texts me.  As old as I am, I still love hearing my birth story.  How my parents had gone to a high school basketball game and my grandparents were away for the night.  My mom realized her water broke and they waited at my grandparent's house for them to get home.  Then she will tell me about the drive to the hospital - how my Papa had a new Lincoln with power windows - a very new technology in 1975 - and my dad got pulled over for speeding and couldn't figure out which button to push to get the drivers window down and my Grammie hollered at the police officer and they ended up with a police escort.  I was born a tiny little thing, 5 lbs 14 oz. and the nurses brought me to my mom for the first time in a stocking.

Then she tells me about Christmas and how my Grammie brought all of her presents to the hospital and she got a gorgeous white coat.  And she still isn't sure which was the better present, me or the white coat.  As silly as that tradition seems at my age, it connects me to my mom in a special way.  At 1:11 am on December 24, the years melt away and we reconnect at the heart.  

I hope in the last 35 years, I've been able to prove to be a little bit better than the coat.  Seeings how I'm still around and the coat is long gone I guess I can make the assumption I won out as the better gift.

As you head into Christmas Eve and your celebrations, I urge you to give thanks for the babies that have changed your lives and to take time to honor the baby that changed the world.

Luke 2:1-7
2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

MERRY CHRISTMAS  May you rejoice on the blessings of the past year and may the new year be doubly blessed!

Friday, December 17, 2010

For Proprietary Reasons

For Proprietary reasons, I cannot go into detail about what we did today but it involved this:

 And this:

These two hoodlums came along for the ride.  They only had to pee once the entire 5 hours we were outside.  Not too shabby.

There were a lot of people standing around.  (Seemed like an awful lot of people doing nothing if you ask me).

And these hoodlums found joy in rolling down the hill.  By hill, I mean slight grade to the park road.  I'd be lying if the crew didn't find those kids entertaining.  And I got the best birthday present ever when several of the crew told me that I had the most well behaved children.  I did have to look around a few times to see if the person was addressing me.  No, I did not drug them or bribe them either.  I may have threatened to phone Santa and tell him to give their presents to some other little kids if they didn't put forth their best behavior, but I didn't drug or bribe them.  Psychological intimidation is a lost art.

One of the girls that paid me that compliment talked to me for a while about what we did on the farm, our animals, etc.  Then she asked if we farmed exclusively and I told her that we had a landscaping business as well.  She then asked what I did so I said, "I'm a stay at home mom," and I don't know if it was based on the conversation we had and the impression she got from it or if it has just become so popular, it was just a natural question, but she then asks, "Oh, do you homeschool then?"  I told her that I envy folks who can, but I don't feel called to or equipped to home school so Walker goes to public school which we took him out of for the day to have this unique experience.

The guy in the black coat is a big -time director.  At least to us.   He was super nice and talked to Erik the whole day.  I kind of got the feeling that all the while he was asking us about the farm and what we do, he was kind of panicking in the back of his mind that we were crazy FARM people and he wondered what we were truly capable of.  The guy in the tan coat - owned the production company, I think.  He's totally bald under that hat.  I don't know why I pictured him as having a head of dark brown, curly hair that has been cut so that it doesn't look curly, but you can tell by the texture it's curly.  Totally surprised when we got to lunch and saw him take off his hat.  He has four kids too and is expecting a grandchild in January.  His youngest is 21.  I swear the guy didn't look old enough to have kids much older than ours.  He was super nice and so pleasant about us hanging around and the hoodlums rolling all over the place.

These hoodlums continue to goof off . . .
 While their big brother (kid in the orange hat in the middle) works.  He didn't have to work, no one told him to work, his parents didn't even say, "Go to work!"  He just CHOSE to work.   When he left the set today, he got a standing ovation from the cast and crew.  The AD (assistant director - yeah, I know the lingo now) said she'd hire him now.  I hope he didn't overhear her because my argument of "You have to go to school or else you won't be able to grow up and get a job" will be completely shot.
 So the hoodlum in pink finally realized her working brother was getting a little more attention, so she decided to help out.
 Standing behind her is the AD's PA (Production Assistant), Maggie.  Talk about confusing to my Maggie.  I finally told her that she should just assume that NO ONE on set was talking to her.  Two seconds later, the AD addressed her.  Then she looked like an idiot child because an adult was speaking to her directly and she was ignoring her.  

"Maggie."  (she looks up in the sky)  "Maggie May" (she looks across the lawn at the playground) . . . .  "MARGARET MAY!  THEY ARE TALKING TO YOU!"  (Turns and looks at me with a DUH face)

"What Momma?"

Another fine parenting moment.

 Eventually even the little one got in on the action.  Notice both boys sitting next to one of the space heaters.  Smart boys - it was only 19 degrees today.
When I can, I'll release all of the proprietary details of what all happened today and hopefully we'll be able to share the final product with all of you.  It was such a fun day and I hope the kids will remember it forever.  It will be our one claim to fame.

 In the meantime, my disclaimer:  No children or animals were harmed in the writing of this blog post . . .  Yet.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Making A List, Checking It Twice . . .

No, I'm not talking about Santa.

I'm talking about me.  Yes, I confess, (because you probably hadn't already guessed) I am a list maker.  My lists even have lists.  Seriously, I have lists with sublists.  My lists look more like the outline to a doctoral thesis with all the bullets, Roman numerals and footnotes!

I've been spending a lot of my time at my computer making lists to prepare for a Christmas Open House.  I've got my household to do lists, food lists, and my to do "wish" items - those things I really want to have done, but probably won't because other items on my lists are a priority.

Another list that is in constant progress is my "gift" list - where I'm tracking items I've thought of buying for people as gifts, crossing off items I've purchased, and the homemade gift list which includes the directions for making the homemade items, the materials list, and to whom the item will be given!

Are you as crazy as me yet??

Tonight, one of the homemade gifts I'm working on is my annual year in review photo slideshow DVD.  Not only am I sorting photos (so thankful for the digital age and the ease of sorting through photos in my folders on the computer) and then searching my itunes database for songs to go with the slideshow.  My song choices usually include songs the children have loved from the radio or church and songs I think will evoke emotion from the viewers.  For instance, I spent a few minutes tonight searching for this song which the kids are singing with the choir at church Sunday.  They had their first practice with the grown up choir today and it really stirred me so this will be the song that ends the slideshow.

The year in review slideshow is one of my favorite projects to do.  I love going back through my photo files to see how much the children have changed and grown.  I also hate seeing how much the children have changed and grown.

This week has been filled with a lot of nostalgia for me.  Remembering what we did last year at this time.  It really is amazing how fast this year went.  

So, a few pics of where we were last year at this time.


 Me and my babies.

 Walker, Taylor, Chet, Maggie, Will

Now back to my lists.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Insert gratuitous, too cute for words, baby in a Santa hat picture here! 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Golden Geese

I've commented pretty frequently on this blog that my life hasn't really turned out like I thought it would.  I guess that's a pretty common theme among bloggers. In fact, The Pioneer Woman has marketed an entire career from that premise.  The latest installment of "Life Unexpected" is so outlandish, you really have to read this to believe it.

So you know I mention (complain) sometimes about the menagerie of animals we have here on the farm.  Birds of all sorts, although not our primary production animal here at Goodness Grows Farm, are everywhere.  Most of them, sadly, living out the ends of their lives not knowing that their journey to Goodness Grows Farm is a death sentence.

As somewhat of a back story as to how we have so many birds, I think I've blogged pretty extensively about the Burmese that come here and buy chickens, ducks, etc. for their own consumption.  Well, about a year ago, through our website, a young chef, Kevin, contacted Erik about Goodness Grows becoming a direct supplier for all of his needs.  At the time, Kevin was preparing to open a specialty food market in the newPittsburgh Public Market In The Strip.  Kevin met with Erik and they discussed the specialty meat products that were to be sold at Crested Duck Charcuterie and a great relationship was formed.  Kevin now regularly buys a wide variety of product from us.  As a result of this arrangement, some of the product Kevin needs for Crested Duck are not always available to us through our traditional farmer contacts or at the various auctions Erik attends so when he has the opportunity to acquire something rare, Erik buys large quantities.   One such animal is the goose.  The Crested Duck  provides fresh, farm raised meats including elk, bison, venison, duck, goose, rabbit, goat and more. In addition, we are offering an exciting array of creations including galantines, pates, terrines, roulades and rillettes as well as accompanying jellies, jams and relishes. Utilizing traditional 15th century methods for preparing and preserving meats, our charcuterie uses locally sourced products that are hand crafted in small batches to guarantee freshness.

Fast forward a few months, Kevin has successfully launched the Crested Duck and we have learned that geese are not always a sure thing at an auction, so over the late summer and early fall, Erik acquired about a dozen geese in anticipation of Kevin's usual needs as well as in preparation of "Christmas Goose."  In case you wondered, geese are noisy creatures!  They are almost as noisy as roosters in the morning and all day long you can hear them snorting and snuffing through the farmyard feeding.  They pretty much keep to themselves and most of the time I'm unaware of them except for when I forget that we have that many geese and I look up in the pasture and wonder for a few seconds what in the world all those brown and white things are dotted across the pasture.   This isn't the post to go into how being a mom has affected my brain.

The majority of our geese are the African Geese as shown in the picture above, but we also have two buff geese who are not part of the Christmas Dinner flock and are just our farmyard friends.

Well, you know how Erik knows everyone and if he doesn't know them personally, he knows someone who knows them?  I mean, this is the man that ran into someone he knew on our honeymoon . . . in Punta Cana, Domincan Repulic!  He's like the Kevin Bacon of Butler.  I'll bet we could play a game, "Six Degrees of Erik Schwalm."  Last week, around Thanksgiving.  Erik tells me he has had the strangest phone call.  A guy Erik met through a friend knows a girl who is working on a commercial in Pittsburgh and she is looking for a flock of geese for the commercial.  The friend gave our name and one week later, the trainer from the National Aviary arrived this afternoon to pick up all the geese to try to train some of them.  

Erik and the girls from the Aviary load the geese into the van.

Apparently, we did not provide our geese with the appropriate skill set.  For the commercial, the skills required are to take a white bread sandwich out of someone's hands, and the other skill is to fish a set of keys out of a purse.

I'm not sure if these geese have it in them, but I sure hope they do.  

The trainer will have the geese for next few weeks.  She told us today that she will know by the weekend which geese are most receptive to the training and will only keep the most promising ones to continue with the intensive training.  The others will return here to await their acting debut sometime around December 14.  According to Erik's contact in charge of filming, we are responsible for bringing the geese to "the shoot" and we are allowed to stay to watch them film.  I think it will be an exciting experience for the kids and we'll definitely take Walker out of school to have the experience.  

We'll also have to plan to attend something at the Consol Energy Center as from what we've been told the commercial will be air exclusively at events at the new arena.  

In all my wildest dreams, I never thought my ride to Hollywood would be on the wings of geese.  

I wonder what the animal owner version of a stage parent is?  Whatever it is, I promise not to be that.  

I've got to go now.  I need to get our list of needs ready for the rider  . . .  Hollywood, here we come!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Busy, busy!


I had to say that LOUDLY because I really cannot believe it.  The weather this week makes it pretty impossible to believe also.  Here in Western PA, it has been sunny and warm.  The perfect week for me to ignore all my chores and concentrate on washing linens, curtains, and anything else I can get away with hanging out on the line to dry to get that wonderful smell.  I'm not planning on doing my bedroom linens until Thursday or maybe even Friday so I have the entire weekend to enjoy the smell.  Erik laughs at me, but more than the smell, I LOVE the way sheets taken from the line are so taught and crisp on the mattress.    Seriously, can my life get more mundane?

I have so much to share from the past few weeks, I'm not even sure where to start.  I guess I'll first start with Schwalm family photos.  They went extremely well and turned out great.  Especially since I, the photographer, had to be in the pictures.  I had several obstacles to overcome one being that I was to be in the photos, second, that the location I chose, the neighbor's pond, had no good place to set up my tripod as the entire breastwork was only three feet and then steep cliff!  I wanted to get as much scenery in as possible, but still get good close-ups.  Challenge accepted!  I managed to get the tripod set up with the telephoto lens because I had to set the tripod so far away.  But, all turned out wonderfully.  Except, as usual, Walker had one of his bouts of sullenness (as evidenced by some of the family portraits) and Will ran out of patience pretty quickly but my in-laws all seem pretty happy, so it's all good!  We all even kind of matched.  I had planned that my family would be wearing those shades of green and purple, but it just so happened the rest of my in-laws tried to match too.  You know how I love me some coordinating outfits : )

Halloween.  For some reason (let's not go into the psychosis that is driving me in this post, kay?) I am compelled to try to DIY my kids Halloween costumes. Again with the coordinating!  We went to my hometown because my mom's side of the family was having a soup cook off.  We had the kids walk in the Halloween parade on Saturday in my hometown and then we went trick or treating to a few family and friends homes.  My four are the bees and my nephew is Harry Potter and my niece is a pink pig.  I must be completely clear about her being a  pink  pig.

 As is tradition, the week before Halloween, we went trick or treating at our local Mall.   Here are my little bees at the mall.  I have to say, Walker's costume looks pretty good for doing it last minute.  I got the black sweats (I had to turn the sweatshirt inside out because NO STORES SELL ANYTHING PLAIN ANYMORE!  Everyplace has all that graphic tee  crap on it.  Don't even get me started on all the graphic print crap everywhere!)  So, I just used gold duct tape to make strips on the black inside out sweatshirt.  The headbands were from the Dollar Tree.  I had to rip other crap off them to re-invent them as antenae, but it was easy.  And believe it or not, Maggie's skirt was SUPER easy.  It is just yellow petticoat netting and black tulle.  I found a great place to buy Tulle online.  This way, she has a costume AND a "dress-up" outfit when Halloween is over.  I found Whitaker's costume at a consignment sale for $6 and Will's costume was one I had from when Walker was little.

Happy first Halloween, precious boy!

We ended the weekend in my hometown with a soup cook off among family members.  It was a blast.  We had eight entries and four independent judges.  I won't go into how it was fixed because I didn't know that two of the judges DON'T LIKE MUSHROOMS and I made MUSHROOM BISQUE!  I'm not bitter about the fact I came in DEAD LAST with a recipe that is absolutely delicious!

The judges had privacy in the formal dining room at my grandfather's house so they could judge the contest.

 My mom dishes up four servings of her soup for the judges to taste with help from my Aunt.
 My Uncle (the guy who thought up having the contest), my mom and my Uncle's wife.
 The rest of the family noshes on fresh bread and other tasty items while waiting for the judges to deliberate.

My brother in law, also a soup contestant, got his dad to be one of the judges.  His family does lots of fun stuff like this, so JD & Mr. Mik have lots of experience with food contests.  I wish I would have had my camera handy when Mr. Mik was reading the official contest rules - they were awesome!  I did have have it when they read the results.  Not good for me.  Not good at all.

Ironically, my sister, who made chicken noodle dumpling soup, was the winner.  Even though my Uncle (the creator of the contest) kept telling her, "Kate, no one is going to win with Chicken Noodle Soup."    

I'm not bitter though!

We're having a meatball contest winter, 2011.  All I can say is watch out family.  This loser is ready for redemption!  I'm pretty sure I have a pretty good advantage as my soup contest winning sister is pregnant and expecting her third child in February.  I'm hoping by the time we have the contest, she'll be in that stage of pregnancy where she doesn't want to do anything.  At least I'm counting on it.