when the (chicken) shit hits the fan(tastical)

Today. I was motivated and hopeful. I supremely needed to get some work done. The morning was off to a smooth start of maple oats and sunrise cuddles. But then Margot and I got into an argument about what she was to wear to school. Margot called me bossy and unkind.

I found myself lecturing about the hem length and logistics of carrying anything when also needing to carry her two-feet-too-long dress. She was tearful when she demonstrated how princesses carry their skirts; explained how Lucy, Grace, Beata and Lauris would love her new gown. I realized my stubborn mistake. I truly was bossy and unkind. I apologized, we hugged, she wore the dress.

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Margot happily waltzed into her preschool, carrying that iridescent blue fabric, Ruby and I returned home. Ten minutes later, the phone rang. It was Margot’s school. Her eye is kind of red…four confirmed cases of pink eye…can you come get her?

For me, it’s an agitated adjustment on these days. The days when my plan to work is taken like a tidal wave extinguishing a tea light. On the one hand, there’s no negotiating: the tidal waves wins. On the other hand, whah! Something like that.

We do get there, where we need to be, rather quickly. I spent a few minutes recalibrating my brain, phoning and emailing to cancel obligations. I softened into my new ‘plan’ as I drove back to Margot’s school, Ruby bleating Humpty Dumpty from the back seat.

Margot was hardly ill, all sing songy polyester. But I get the school’s hyper-vigilance. I waffled and eventually headed to Cost Care where the diagnosis was wholly inconclusive. I got the prescription anyway, just in case we need it. We wandered around Ace Hardware, bought New Kitty a name tag. His name is George, by the way. Finally decided by the kids based on his curiosity, his inclination to reach into any vessel lying about and fling it, and liquid contents, across the room. Curious George. Margot and Ruby chose a pink bejeweled heart for his tag.

Next to Ace, next to Cost Care, is Crazy Mike’s Movie Rental. Andy and I were frequent patrons in college. My kids have never been what with Netflix and all. We passed through the big teal door into a mania I hadn’t anticipated. Do we get to just pick a movie and watch it right here?! Margot asked, jumping, eyes wide, as some feature animation blasted overhead. I quickly chose two of my childhood favorites and we were out.

Ruby fell asleep on the way home and Margot parked in front of our computer for The Parent Trap declaring this day one of the best ever. I slipped into my studio to stitch up some hats and shirts. The sun came out. I hummed.

I got a solid hour in when I heard Ruby’s drumming feet in the upstairs hall. Sewing machine off. I headed upstairs to snuggle and prepare more food. Seems I am always making (or cleaning up from) a snack these days.

Leftover beet-fennel soup, hard boiled eggs, spinach salad, peanut butter pretzels. I suggested we attempt an errand, an obligation I really wanted to honor. We barely made it to the car, both girls now wearing muddy-hemmed, oversized gowns. They protested, I urged and simultaneously regretted my urging. But we got on just fine. We completed our task and, on the way back home, I gasped, “Holy smokes, Mount Jumbo is amazing right now.”

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“I feel pretty sure I could just live up there,” Margot beamed.

“Yeah, ‘cept you miss mama and dada, right?” Ruby replied.

Once home, we walked past our hens clucking about the yard when I noticed Peanut all sullen in the corner of the coop. She’s the least likely hen to want a cuddle so when she let me scoop her right up I knew something was amiss. Her raw, hot, featherless belly felt like a water balloon. And so, I followed my two princesses upstairs, Peanut under my arm.

I don’t know much about bird illness but I thought a bath might feel nice. I asked Peanut and she leaned into me. I filled the tub with warm water, she diarrheaed all over me, all over the bathroom wall. My kids were at my heels wanting to inspect the excrement. Alice whined for dinner. My seamstress knocked on the door to deliver clothes. The phone rang, I tripped on yesterday’s bag of wet swimsuits, yet to be unpacked. HOLY HELL.

Hen in the tub, dog fed, liquid poop inspected and cleaned, soggy bag kicked aside. I made myself a drink. And I sat at the tub’s edge squinting the fake tile into a foggy blur. My kids spoke ‘french’ by my side, which is really a slurry of th and sh and mua sounds.

Andy arrived home to leaping, screaming daughters. Peanut is in the bathtub! Margot has pink eye! Andy pulled a turkey pot pie from the freezer. I kissed him for all the freezer food he stashes away and for caring about these chickens that (weren’t at all his idea but totally all his labor) have cost us way more than the eggs they give and for his cinnamon beard that I just learned will be shaved into a mustache for his upcoming boys ski weekend.

I cradled Peanut by the fire in a towel while my family made salad and did dishes. She purred. I’ve never heard a chicken purr but she settled in just like my cats. Ever since our first flock disaster years ago, I’ve distanced myself from my hens as pets. I care for them but not the same way I did. They are so fragile and helpless. We’ve lost five since our move. With the recent deaths, I have felt irresponsible and sad but not like I did that first time when I wept while shoveling filleted bodies off my lawn. I have a different, more cordial relationship with my hens now.

But. There was something emotionally elemental and right about snuggling Peanut in the towel. This life, we are IN IT together. All species. Bare skinned, furry, feathered. She purred. An old soul dinosaur.

We’ll take our swollen bellied girl to the vet tomorrow where we will narrow down the three diagnoses the doc gave over the phone. And tomorrow will be different from today but, big picture, mostly the same: a little bit of chaos, a lot of unpredictability, a whole lot of rolling with it.

To love, mess and humor,

36 Responses to when the (chicken) shit hits the fan(tastical)

  1. Krista Redpath Pyron says:

    Hi Nici… oh my I feel like this was my day minus the chicken and throw in an ear infection instead of pink eye. Expectations…. it is hard when you know your day is shot (for the love of your kiddos) and you just have to rearrange…. For me tonight work had to wait until my little sicko finally crashed in our bed and then I sneaked into my office, door cracked listening to his snoring (that and my husband’s) It is 12:15am and I realized at 10:30pm that I have snack duty for Evan’s preschool (ear infection boy that probably won’t even be at school tomorrow, but I will!). As I am waiting for granola bars to cool, I thought I would check in with you. Perfect read!! xo to you Krista Pyron

    • dig dig says:

      Oh WOW mama. Pretty dang inspiring that you made granola bars after your day. Rest well tonight! I am heading to bed right this minute. x

  2. Kelly Cach says:

    I’ve never teared up over a chicken before….until now. You have a knack, I tell ya! A good story-telling knack. I was laughing at first, and then I felt my heart becoming very tender toward a CHICKEN :)

    And my kitchen, too. Oy! I am always walking into the aftermath of the snack attack! And now they make their own, and well…..

  3. i’m sorry about your day. but it’s these moments that make the best material. i love this piece because it’s like talking to you. it flows, honest and smooth. reading it, i felt its newness and new how good it must have felt to get out, to get into bed and be ready for a new day tomorrow…

  4. Niamh says:

    Oh Lawd…days like those are funny later on that night, when you are clutching wine, sitting and sipping, but when I’m swirling in the midst of the maelstrom all I want to do is clench my fists and shriek and scream. Hope Peanut feels better soon!

  5. Marian says:

    Oh Nici you make me laugh! I sure need one today- my last days haven’t gone to plan either. Maggie has gone back from the special care nursery into NICU last night after screaming her little lungs out for 2 days. Drs have done so many tests, swabs etc including a lumbar puncture. Yesterday I spent the whole day crying. I would give anything to take her place. She’s a bit better, but they’re still not sure what’s made her so unhappy. She’s on some serious antibiotics, hoping that starts to fix her up.

    • SmithShack71 says:

      Just sending you a hug, and hoping it all turns around to be excellent.

    • jaymo says:

      Hoping for some answers and a swift recovery. Any sort of “regression” in the hospital is so scary and hard. I was THIS close to having OCD during my son’s stay a few years ago (I remember throwing a piece of paper in the garbage, but first thinking ‘if I make this basket, everything will be okay.’ and then I’d miss and think ‘okay. Best out of 3’). A sick baby, sleep deprivation and post partum hormones are not a fun combo. Take a nice walk outside, say “yes” to any help offered and try to take a step back to see the general trend upwards even though it seems like one step forward, two steps back.

      Hang in there, mama!

      • Marian says:

        Thanks Ang and Jaymo. Maggie is much improved a mystery virus is believed to be the culprit. She’s been moved back into the Special Care Nursery and reunited with her sister.

  6. Jane MacDonald says:

    I love your blog. LOVE. I love that you filled your tub up and cuddled your chicken. I love that you allowed Margot to wear a princess dress to preschool. I love your parenting. Period. That last pic is hilarious. I hope Peanut makes out OK today at the Dr’s. Happy Wednesday from NS!

  7. Jennifer says:

    Oiy. Definitely not your average day of cranking it out, but incredible writing as a result. I’m sure that it felt good to drink that martini too. You earned it. I’m sure it felt even better to comfort a chicken that eventually purred in your arms. Clutching chickens. Clutching life. Moments that make others purr.

    I felt the need to just stop the exhaustion of my day and week yesterday by going to bed at 8:30. And it was the best thing I could have done for myself and for my family. I need to work better at the word “stop” or “idle”. I’m not very good at being anything but “go” all the time.

    Hoping for the best for your feathered friend.

  8. SmithShack71 says:

    What a day. The sun just came up here a few minutes ago, and it was beautiful. So, cheers to a new, better, healthy day.
    The last shot was great. Summed it right up.

    and seriously… Mount Jumbo.

  9. memomuse says:

    Great post Dig! You had me at the princess dress. It just kept getting better (well, actually worse — for you). Your attitude and optimism are inspirational. I hope your chicken feels better. As always, love your writing. You have a gift to transport the reader. I enjoyed traveling to your little corner of the world in Missoula which you make some very large and warm.

  10. Dana says:

    Planned to catch up on some e-mailing during my breakfast, but saw you had a new post, so I read that over my smoothie instead. One of my favorites you’ve ever written! I’m childless as of now in my life, and I look to you as a mother who totally ROCKS it with her children, someone to emulate should I ever had littles of my own one day. And I loved loved loved reading your beautiful prose about a day when, yes indeed, the shit did hit the fan, but you still totally rocked it.

  11. Brinkley Brown says:

    I love that you care for your hens the way you do…you are a special soul.

  12. Trbholt says:

    “The days when my plan to work is taken like a tidal wave extinguishing a tea light”….your way with words are amazing!

    Poor Peanut, I hope she is better soon….you are right Burb we ARE in it together.

    xoxo, Mom

  13. Sure do love the way you roll.

  14. Maggie says:

    “sing songy in polyester” and “old world dinosaur” are my favorite. Loved this, despite the stress it caused mama. Turn that fan off– no more chicken shit splatter for your Wednesday! :)

  15. jaymee says:

    I so so love this. Just wanted to say that. : )

  16. Kris says:

    We had a ‘hen disaster’ as well. It hurt. Then we raised four more from chicks and I am more attached to these. We have two barred rocks like Peanut….I hope she will be ok. I love how you rolled with the punches of your day and gave in to some battles. It’s a good reminder for all of us mommas.

  17. I’m so sorry to hear about your day, but I have to admit that I’m happy to hear that I’m not the only who has days or evenings like this. After working all day, I rush to pick up my boys from daycare only to learn that they both had behavior incidents…again…and only to continue once we get home. Then I start to lose it, find out that hubby has to work late, and there is no dinner yet…which only makes the situation worse. That’s when I, too, just give up all plans for that evening and just be present with the boys. We have a small picnic of cheese and crackers on the floor, play with trucks, and share giggles. It doesn’t always work, but thank goodness for when it does.

    Thanks for sharing…it was a joy to read. :)

  18. Carrie says:

    This is beautiful! Really, truly beautiful. Thank you.

  19. Angela says:

    Sorry your day was rough but it made me smile…The Parent Trap was a childhood favorite of mine also and my girls just recently watched it and loved it! Also my husband has been obsessed with mustaches lately…too funny! Hope today is smoother for you.

  20. Wendy says:

    Damn straight we are in this together! Words cannot describe how much I loved this post. You’re amazing.

  21. Nicolette says:

    oh peanut! nothin like a little chicken diarrhea to really put things into prespective. love your writings. wasn’t expecting to be so moved by a purring chicken image.

  22. Sarah says:

    Sorry to hear about you day, but I just have to say, that last photo, OMG, I LOVE it! :) Hope things go better for you and peanut tomorrow!

  23. Jessa R. says:

    Thank you. We are in different seasons but your lessons ring true- the tidal wave wins and we just have to roll with it. Your day was at once unfamiliar (children. Chickens.) but also familiar in the daily routine of finding moments for wine. :) xoxo

  24. Rocksee says:

    “I feel pretty sure I could just live up there,” Margot beamed

    I feel this way about alot of places.. I’m glad I’m not the only one Margot.. :)

  25. Shannan says:

    Promise you will let us all know about what happens to peanut!

  26. Kellie says:

    Loved the “French”…the sick chicken, not so much. I do know that a sweet husband and a glass of wine can help :)

  27. finny says:

    Aw, poor Peanut. I saw your update on Facebook and thought I’d come see what happened to the poor dear. You’re sweet to the core, you know that? Got a big caring heart in there, Dig. Hugs all around.

  28. Stacey says:

    I’m so sorry about Peanut and so inspired by your roll-with-the-punches attitude. I’m sooooo not good at that – deviation from my plans will often leave me grumpy – but I’m trying to be more flexible. Martinis never hurt. :)

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