Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Going to see Santa Claus

One of our favorite family traditions is Coreen's annual visit to see Santa Claus at St. Clair Square. Coreen is 31 years old, spending her days in a wheelchair.
Some years when we've gone to visit Santa, she has not said a single word the whole time. This year was different. She talked excitedly the whole day.
"I am going to see Santa. It is crowded here. I'm hungry. I've been GOOD." It was such fun to hear her have so much to say.
Three of her nieces and nephews joined in the fun. Bree, Bella and Drew all joined in -- first lunching at Olga's -- then heading to center court to visit Santa.
Drew and Brianna jumped and danced as they waited in line. Coreen had a nice conversation with Santa. Isabella, who just turned one, was not happy meeting Santa at all. She started crying almost immediately. It was pretty funny to watch -- but not to poor Bella.
It was fun to spend time with some of the grandkids, and three of my grown kids. But the day belonged to Coreen. And it was a good day.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Helpful hands - homeschoolers learn on the job

It was cold today. But not too cold for my four Tuesday homeschool helpers. They arrived in the morning and spent most of this frigid day outside, in the barn, working on the farm.
We started out by picking up a load of grain -- around 20 50-lb bags -- at Rural King. Michelle, Hannah, Jonathan (the birthday boy) and Kristie helped unload the bags of grain, and eventually fed the grain to the llamas and alpacas.
They caught Eagle Eye -- and we spent part of the time beginning her halter training. She wasn't happy with the plan. She leaped and twirled, sort of like a ballerina who just got a jolt of electricity. She even made a feeble attempt to spit on us. It was pretty funny. Little sputtt, sputt, spit! What a riot.
We had a load of hay delivered from Jeff and Frank. It was carefully placed inside the barn to be used over these next cold winter days. I also put out three big round bales for the three groups in my barn -- the big boy herd, the little boy herd -- and the girls/babies.
We had a delicious lunch of spaghetti, provided by Becky in honor of Jonathan's birthday. It warmed the tummy and heart.
We loaded four cans filled with fertilizer -- to be used in the spring on local gardens.
My homeschool helpers are such a great addition to this farm. My barn has never looked so good -- when Michelle took it upon herself to sweep/move all that loose hay from the middle of the barn into nice, organized spots inside the herd areas. Wow. It is impressive.
In the photos: Some of the critters by the big round bale; Eagle Eye gets some lead training; Jonathan is in charge of keeping the brake on the truck -- as Jeff unloads a big bale.
Thank you to my helpers -- you made a cold winter day a productive day of fun and learning at the farm.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"L" is for Llama

So the phone rang last week. It was my favorite 4-year-old farm helper, my grandson Andrew. "Grammy, we're talking about the letter 'L' at school. Will you bring a llama to school?"
Who could resist such a sweet request?
So today, Ben and I loaded up Vision and Pebbles, two wonderful public relations llamas, and headed for the Chesterfield Presbyterian Church Preschool. We got some help when we arrived from my great farm helpers -- Jonathan, Michelle and Kristie.
It was barely 30 degrees -- so they let us bring the llamas into the school building.
My grandson was both shy and proud. He came up and held tight to Vision's rope -- and stood up front while we told the preschoolers all about llamas. They all had a chance to come up and pet the llamas, if they wanted -- and everyone left with a small bag of fleece and a coloring page.
We even donated a copy of "Is Your Mama a Llama?" to the school and read the story to the kids. They knew most of the rhymes already. Their teacher mentioned that they had recently read "Llama, Llama Red Pajama" another good llama book.
Of course, my all time favorite is "55 Grandmas and a Llama."
It was such a good day . And "L" is definitely for LLAMA!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fair Trade Market Day

Oh my goodness it was cold today. I took two llamas, Pebbles and Lala; and four alpacas, Eileen and her boy, Whitman, Paris and Eureka out into the community. Our Artisan Guild had been asked to provide demonstrations for the Manchester United Methodist Church annual Fair Trade Market in Ballwin, MO.
I brought animals -- to help support the work of the South American artisans who were selling hats, scarves and such. It was 27 degrees when we arrived. In fact, you can see the remnants of the Thanksgiving snow in the photos.
There were many great questions and much joy in sharing the stories of these wonderful animals. Michelle and Kristie, who volunteer at my farm, came to help. They showed the animals to visitors and talked about llamas and alpacas in general. You can see how much fun they had sharing their knowledge. And little Whitman, with his head lying on his mama's back -- how adorable is that?
My two llamas spent much of the day gazing intently at the cemetary. At first I thought they were seeing a fox or squirrel. Then I wondered if they were seeing the small flags flapping in the breeze. I didn't think it was either of those things, but found it puzzling that they kept looking in that direction -- as though they had seen something.
Now comes the "blessed" moment.
A woman was at the cemetary (that you can see in the background of the pictures) that is on the church property. She placed flowers on a grave there. Then she drove over to where I was with the animals and talked to me for a brief moment. She began telling me that she visits the cemetary every day.
In the course of our conversation I discovered that her 11-year-old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia on March 19, 2010. In September she died from the cancer and the subsequent harsh treatment to try to cure the disease. We stood and cried -- mother-to-mother -- about her loss. I have not seen such palpable grief in a person in a long, long time. She said she put yellow and purple flowers on her daughter's grave -- because her daughter loved purple. The holidays have already been impossible for her.
Jack and I have not lost a child -- but we did lose a grandchild in March 2000. She was a twin to our Ashley, little Jessica. Ashley made it -- Jessica did not. I miss her every day.
This stranger and I spoke quietly for a long, long time. Then she said she was leaving. I told her that I would watch over her daughter since I would be there all day.
Llamas are such compassionate beings. I know they knew about her daughter. They, too, were watching. Rest in peace, little girl.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Kindergarten farm visit

The kindergartners from Albers Elementary came to the farm on Tuesday. They came at lunch time -- with brown bags in hand -- and learned about llamas and alpacas while munching on pb & js and chips. They watched as Hannah plied yarn with her spinning wheel, and Christie and Michelle showed them Minnie, the llama, and Navajo, the alpaca.

Then it was time to trek out to the pasture to feed carrots to interested critters. Dusk and Sanya, two alpacas, cooperated by kushing -- tucking their feet up under them -- and letting kindergartners sit next to them and pet them. It was adorable.

Next it was a Native American Drum Circle -- led by my brother, Patrick. All the kids rattled percussion items and got a chance to beat the "big gathering drum" -- the heatbeat of Mother Earth. It was great.

Then the class stood in front of the tipi for a group photo. It was a really, really good farm visit for them -- and for me, too!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mama's birthday

We celebrated my mama's 89th birthday yesterday. HER mama was 101 1/2 when she passed away -- and had never been a patient in a hospital! Six kids all born at home -- no broken bones -- healthy as can be. I like to think that I got my chutpah (Yiddish word for guts/boldness/sassiness) from her. She was my godmother and always present in my life. Grandma's are like that.
Mom's baby sister, my aunt Lilly, was here with her husband, Uncle Ish and daughter Barbie. All of my siblings and their families came and the food was endless.
The "cousins" played together and all had such a great time. Jack Dean (the up and coming deejay at 21 months) did the: hot foot, pump it up, the sprinkler, lasso, fist pump, explosion -- oodles of dance moves. He's a mini-riot.
The kids ran around and played with toys and had a blast. They got to be kids and make up their own fun.
It was a great celebration. I am blessed to still have my mom.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Grandmother's comfort

Okay. I've decided to call my little hat-making enterprise "Grandmother's comfort." I've made a hat for each of my grandkids (except Alex, I think -- he's 13 and way too cool for that). Some of them have already outgrown the first hat -- and are ready for the next one (Bella).
But all have been delighted by the warmth and "specialness" of the hat that grammy made for them.
My friend, Loyce, gifted me with a wonderful drawing of a Native American grandmother singing to her grandchild. It's beautiful. It is entitled, "Grandmother's comfort" -- and thus the name is borrowed for my soft, warm fuzzy alpaca hats -- and soon-t0-be scarves, I hope.
It is no small thing, the power of these hats -- and the power of a grandmother's comfort.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A day like today

Good grief. Today was some kind of day.

First of all I voted early in the a.m.
Then I headed to another alpaca farm, bringing one of my males for breeding. My dear friend gifted me with a beautiful pair of mittens -- made from the fleece of my favorite Canadian female alpaca, Candi. That brought tears and thank yous.
Then it was back home, doing some work on the Bobcat, letting the big boys into the front yard to munch on the green, green grass.
Next some llama and alpaca friends stopped by for a visit. Loyce, Pat, Lee, Marilyn, Barb and I headed out on the golf car to feed some carrots to my girl herd.
I commented on the fact that the llamas were all "out in the back hay field" eating the good hay.
As we drove out on the golf car -- I realized that NONE of the llamas were in the back hayfield. "Where could they have gone?" I asked out loud.
Well -- apparently one of them had stuck her head through the gate to eat the grass outside the gate -- and lifted the gate off of its pins -- and half of the gate was lying on the ground.
So over 30 of my herd had gone "walkabout" in the neighbor's yards, down the street, down a long lane, just wandering around.
Thank goodness for experienced "llama wranglers." The first six llamas came back to the "call" -- "lllllllllaaaaaaaamas -- alpaaaaaaaacas" and rattling of a bag of carrots. It got harder after that.
The other 20-plus had to be herded, coaxed, cajoled, begged back into the gate -- one-by-one.
When they had all been captured, Pat and I drove our trucks around the neighborhood to "make sure" they were all back.

That's when I locked my keys in the truck. My son used a hanger to snag the keys, that were lying right on the console.

Then everyone left, but Loyce -- who helped me do an inventory of my animals. I got out the herd list and we checked off every animal. All present and accounted for.

Whew! I'm tired.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

End of the day, Boo at the Zoo

I forgot to talk about the costumes! Bree was Captain Hook. Her costume was classic -- with the fabulous hat, complete with feather, and boots and "the hook." Drew was Scooby Doo -- and he surely had fun leaping and running around. Jack Dean was Kermit the Frog -- and spent the entire day with the hat on -- never pulling or tugging at it once. Bella was the "hunny pot" from Winnie the Poo. Her costume was hot -- and she's a hotbox -- so it only lasted for a brief time -- and then she was free to just be a kid. And little Avary was Supergirl -- with her pink costume and cape. How cute was that?
I took a photo of the train, and the engineer even waved at me as he rolled by.
And then there's the classic picture of Drew -- out like a light in his carseat on the way home. Ahhhhh -- the zoo can wear you out!

Boo at the STL Zoo

Yesterday was my first trip to the famous "Boo at the Zoo." That's where thousands and thousands of people head to the St. Louis Zoo (the country's #1 Zoo, BTW -- AND admission is FREE) and bring their kids/grandkids dressed in Halloween costumes. Corporate sponsors give out candy, but the lines were long -- when there was so much else to do!

One of my best investments has been a family membership to the Zoo Association. That gets me free parking, tickets for attractions like the Children's Zoo, Zoo Railroad, Carousel, etc. So worth it.

Our group started out at Chris's Pancakes in STL -- for a breakfast of champions -- toast, bacon, eggs, pancakes and French toast. Yum.

Then it was off to the zoo -- parking on "the moon" as the lots were packed.

We headed straight to stroller rental and got a double stroller for Jack Dean and whichever kids floated in and out - and trekked to the Children's Zoo. There I ran into Jan -- one of my favorite keepers of my alpaca boys at the zoo. (I sold two alpacas to the zoo last year and it's been awesome for them and for me, too!)

Seems that Doc Freeman remembers me -- and that is always a bonus. He comes right up -- and even nuzzled my face. This is NOT good behavior on the farm -- but at the zoo -- where he is handled every day -- loved and cherished by all who meet him -- it seems to work.

Then it was time to play on the slide, the small farmyard, the goat enclosure -- all the fun stuff at the Children's Zoo.

Then off to ride the train -- and time for a sleepy ride home. The zoo has really outdone itself -- with decorations everywhere -- fall festival themed pumpkins and such. Sooooo much fun. I highly recommend a visit to the Children's Zoo at the STL Zoo. And don't forget to say "hi" to the alpacas!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Chinese tea ceremony

From outdoor fun to the ancient art of the Chinese Tea Ceremony -- all in one afternoon. Sandy (wearing yellow) is a newfound friend. A freshman student at St. Louis University, majoring in psychology. Her goal is to invent a robot for children to enjoy as a toy. She came to the farm for the pit firing, and brought her roommate, Jei (Jay). Jei is majoring in business. She will be heading to Vancouver to college next year.
They visited with the llamas and alpacas, feeding carrots and taking pictures. They couldn't resist a flashback to "kindergarten" as they hopped onto the teeter-totter and laughed and bounced.
Then it was off to my sister's home, as she has many tea bowls and tea pots. Sandy and Jei brought some authentic Chinese teas -- and quietly and elegantly demonstrated the Chinese tea ceremony.
It was a blessing to be able to experience such a beautiful culture. Thank you to both young women for their grace and charm.
And the tea was very, very good!