Happy birthday Miles

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All children are blessings, even the ones we aren’t expecting and at first weren’t necessarily planning for. But I’m pretty sure on this day four years ago, my Miles was an extra special blessing bringing joy at a time for my family that was filled with grief and sadness.

I was about four months pregnant with Miles when my dad passed away. While we knew my dad’s death was inevitable — the terminal cancer diagnosis made that pretty clear — none of us ever expected it would come as quickly as it did. The diagnosis came weeks before Michael and I married — March of 2009. Doctors told us that if he did nothing he’d have about a year, but my dad fought like hell, and we didn’t even get that full year.

We wanted a child badly but wouldn’t have gotten started on our quest to have one so quickly in normal circumstances. But I wanted to give my dad the gift of being a grandfather, and I wanted the joy of seeing my dad be the amazing, loving grandparent I knew he would be. Those last five months of my pregnancy both crawled and zoomed by. I didn’t have much energy to focus on it really as much of my world was wrapped up in the loss of my dad.

When the big delivery day came I was a bundle of emotions. Most of them were happy but a part of me was afraid of what it would feel like when Miles was finally here. It was yet another huge part of my life that I would have to experience without my dad. Would it still be happy? Could I let myself feel the sheer and blinding joy that comes with welcoming a child into the world?

When I heard that first shrill cry from my baby I knew the answer — YES! I cried and cried and cried. But those tears were happy. I was so overwhelmed with love and a sudden purpose that I felt like I would explode. Of course there was grief there. I wanted my dad so badly to be there. But those feelings were right there along with the joy and happy not overshadowing them.

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And my little guy, I can’t begin to describe what he’s given me and the rest of my family. He gave us all a reason to laugh and be happy again. He was our new focus. Of course we still grieved by dad, heck we still do today. I’m crying right now in grief. But I see so much of my dad in this kid it is scary.

Fourth of July parade in Vincennes in 2013

Beyond the love and joy he’s brought to me (and the rest of us) he’s taught me a lot about myself and life. He’s taught me that things don’t always go as planned, to find joy in the simple things, what a coal tinder is, how much fun a mud puddle can be, patience and a million other things.

Today this blessing turns four.

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I love you to pluto and back.

Kiddie ride coward

By Michael Doyle

Dad quickly regretted the spinning on the turkey tilt o' whirl.

Dad quickly regretted the spinning on the turkey tilt o’ whirl.

Amusement park rides are not my thing.

Whether it’s the heights, the spinning or the knowledge that
5 million people have ridden this thing before and that one faulty part or incorrectly installed bolt could mean sudden, fiery death — a family trip to the amusement park has always been, for me, an exercise in creative excuse-making.
“Well, somebody needs to hold your purse, let me do it” … “No, you go ahead, I really want to get a better look at the landscaping over here” … “No, I didn’t find the bathroom with the longest line on purpose, they’re all really long” … “Oh, does that poor woman need CPR? I’d better go help!”
Unfortunately, Miles has inherited his mother’s devil-may-care attitude about these things, and I can’t get out of all of them.
It occurred to me what a total coward I am on the Eagle Flight ride at Holiday World. Classified by the park as a “mild” ride with a 36-inch height requirement — that’s right, it’s basically a kiddie ride — I spent most of the three minutes or so trying to think about baseball, my mom’s crawfish étouffée or that season three episode of “Knight Rider” — anything, anything at all that kept my attention away from the absolutely terrifying scene unfolding in front of me.

Dad made mom ride the roller coaster. Even the kiddie coaster is a little too much.

Dad made mom ride the roller coaster. Even the kiddie coaster is a little too much.

What little I chose to take in only confirmed my fears as the two daredevils in the eagle in front of Miles and me were twisting their rudder every which way, flipping and turning all over the place at breakneck speed at this death-defying height.
“Can I turn it, Dad?” Miles said. “I want to turn it!”
“No, absolutely not!”
Of course, he grabbed it anyway, sending us into a slightly higher arc than the safe, steady track I had kept us on this whole time. That was almost enough for me to yell out to the ride operator “I want off!”
I somehow managed to avoid anything else for the rest of the day — with one tactful U-turn on the stairs of a water slide that just got a little too tall — until it was time to leave.
Miles wanted to ride the kiddie roller coaster one more time, something I was obviously not keen to do. Fortunately, on the way there, we passed the raging rapids ride — we had already gone on this four times that day — and that did not escape young Miles’ notice.

“Oh dad, I like this one! Can we do it again?”

Yes! There was hope.

“Sure, we can go on the raft again, but your mom’s waiting for us. We can only do one ride — raft or roller coaster. You pick.”
“Raft!!” he said.
Relief washed over me in a wave, no less tangible than the buckets of water that would soon be deposited on top of us as we traversed those rapids one more time. Did I mind getting wet all over again? Not one tiny bit.
So this trip was not exactly a dazzling display of courage on my part. It’s OK, I can live with that — because despite my cowardice, we actually did have fun. I might even look forward to going back next year.
Maybe by then, I’ll be ready for one of the big kid rides.

The only stationary spot on the merry-go-round is what the Doyle boys chose.

The only stationary spot on the merry-go-round is what the Doyle boys chose.

No one can rain on my parade

A couple of times a week I throw myself a parade in my own head, seriously. It’s not that I don’t get praise from my husband or other friends and family, but life is so challenging that sometimes I feel like I’ve earned it — that little brain parade.

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Being a working mom is not easy. I’m blessed beyond measure that I have a supportive husband who will pick up nearly any of the traditional “mom” pieces that are dropped in the wake of my insane overscheduled life. But even with that, it can be rough.

So when I’m able to work a nine-hour day, come home, nurse my son and get a meal — from scratch mind you — on the table for my family of four before 6:30 p.m., I think I’ve earned a parade!

I know, I know — it’s not very realistic for me to expect the marching band to be on standby for when I pull one of those stellar, magical, all the pieces fell into place nights off. Instead of expecting tractors, waving fair queens and a steady drum beat in my living room, I envision them in my head. I see the flags spinning in the air, the tinsel hanging from the float dragging on the concrete and the candy flying through the air.

“Momma, what’s wrong?” Miles asks as we are sitting at the dinner table, and I’m zoned out for my brief parade bliss.

“Oh, nothing honey,” I say while helping Owen grasp another handful of the avocado he’s eating, or more realistically smearing all over every surface within reach. “I’m just thinking about something.”

I smile as the horses trot by (the unofficial end to every parade, because, well you know why.)

Another recent parade happened when I took both boys to church — by MYSELF — last week. I have this mom of two thing down pat when I’m in my own territory — I’m a pro on my own turf. But every time I go anywhere, even just the grocery store, with both of them by myself, I feel like I’ve earned a parade. Running into the gas station to grab a Diet Coke with both in tow — that’s just a little mini parade, probably just a few kids on bikes.

Going into the grocery store to get milk and eggs, that parade is a little bigger because I probably had to wrestle away a loaf of bread from the baby at least a few times and keep Miles from dropping the eggs as he “helped me” put the items on the conveyor belt. The store to get chicken feed, that’s a little more challenging because we are now balancing the baby, a 50-plus pound bag of food and a little boy who wants nothing more than to touch ALL of the baby chicks in the store. I do have the added bonus of the popcorn bribery there, though.

Because, cute kids

But taking both boys to church, alone, that’s right up there with the Rose Bowl Parade, it’s not quite Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; but it’s still quite the feat — at least it is in my head.

At church you have to employ a whole new set of mom skills because quiet is of the essence. And quiet for an energetic nearly 4-year-old and almost 8-month-old is not always the easiest of tasks. Most Sundays we have a man-on-man defense approach, but sometimes the assigned player (one of our children) changes. So this two-on-one stuff was tricky. You know what though, I did it. There were zero outbursts, just a few non-whispering moments, some redecorating of the pew and a few little excited baby shouts. I didn’t get any cross looks from the pastor or fellow congregants. So on my drive home from church — yep, you guessed it — I was envisioning a big old parade, thrown just in my honor.

I’m sure many of you are reading this thinking, “Hurmph, parade for taking two kids to church? I’ve brought my quintuplets and pet lion to the pope’s inauguration. And that was just another Tuesday!”

My response, “You are amazing!” But you know what, I also think you are amazing if you are a mom of one and you take your kid to church and he screams his fool head off. Because I’ve been there (not at church, thankfully, but at plenty of grocery stores!)
Being a mom (and dad!) is hard work. Being a parent while working, staying at home or as an astronaut — all of it is a great accomplishment.

So I say we all deserve parades. If we are doing our best to keep our kids healthy, happy and safe, we should be dusting off the baton and whistle and should start leading some parades.

Mother’s Day and other disasters, by Michael Doyle

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One of the things I love most about my wife is that she is a realist.
So when Mother’s Day came along, she understood that all those grand ideas about breakfast in bed, well-behaved children and being catered to all day long just weren’t going to happen with our two kids.
See, even on his calmest days, 3-year-old Miles is what they call a “spirited” child. On other days he is, as my Southern friends say, a “hot mess.”
Sure enough, things got off to a rough start, with Miles pitching a fit about his shoes and not wanting to go to church. Five minutes after coming downstairs, I already could tell this day was going to be a wild ride.
Sparing most of the gory details, we were a solid 10 minutes late for church, breakfast in bed was more along the lines of brunch at McDonald’s and my leisurely barbecue resulted in a grease fire that made our dinner less than great.
Owen, 7 months, was pretty chill the whole day, but even the most low-maintenance baby takes a lot of effort.
At the dinner table, Miles was in rare difficult form, sass-talking, arguing every little thing either of us said and refusing to eat just to spite us.

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“He’s just like me … just like me,” Abbey would say through a mouthful of burned chicken, shaking her head with a half-smile of resignation on her face.
Nearing 7 o’clock, the one item on the agenda that she really wanted — a trip for frozen yogurt — seemed an impossible task.
But I was determined that this one thing was going to happen. I took Miles into his bedroom and gave him the longest caring-but-stern lecture of his young life about how he had hurt his mom’s feelings by misbehaving on Mother’s Day, how he was old enough to know right from wrong and how he should treat other people the way he wants to be treated.
It was my big dad moment, the kind of thing you only see on sitcoms.
Miraculously, it worked — for about 45 minutes. Fortunately, that was long enough to drive to the frozen yogurt place and eat our dessert in relative peace and calm.
It lasted until we were on our way out the door, when suddenly Miles let out every screech, howl, scream, kick and jump he had so dutifully been holding in, blazing a path of chaos out the front door and getting laughs from every single person there.
A mother and her teenage son were standing at the counter. I got the feeling she had been in our shoes a time or two.

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“I remember those days,” she said, exchanging a bemused look with Abbey. “They go by too fast. Happy Mother’s Day.”
“Happy Mother’s Day to you, too,” Abbey said as we walked out the door — reminded, I think, that those little fleeting moments make all the difficult ones worthwhile.
Maybe we’ll try that breakfast in bed thing next year.

First time in a long time

My husband and I don’t get out a lot. Well I get out a fair amount and he gets out when I plan family “to dos,” but the two of us at the same time alone — nope. It pretty much doesn’t happen.

See, we can still have fun, even without the kids!

See, we can still have fun, even without the kids!

It hasn’t happened at all since the birth of our second child (who will be 8 months old in just a few weeks) until last night.

That’s sad. Seriously, I need to try to remedy that.

And when we finally get about 2.5 hours of us time what did we do — we talked about the kids. Yep, that’s exactly what we did. What’s wrong with us.

But in reality I know nothing is wrong with us. This is probably standard parent MO. Our world (most parents’ worlds) revolve around their kids. It’s not like we’ve gotten to the point where we have nothing else to talk about (at least I hope we haven’t) but those were the important, pressing things on our mind.

That’s OK. I’m OK with it. What I’m not as OK with is the fact that it took nearly eight months for us to get away just the two of us. When I hear other parents talk about “date night” once a week I know that that idea is seriously unrealistic for us. But we can do better than once every eight months.

How do you make solo parent time a priority? How do you make it less about the kids and more about the couple?

P.S. We were out doing a restaurant review of a fancy pants (and way out of our normal dining out) budget. It was pretty good,although Michael was a little disappointed with his $38 steak, yes, $38!!!

Chicken-tastrophe, oh and that thing with our home’s roof too

 

Chickens, happy and peaceful in their coop before "the storm!"

Chickens, happy and peaceful in their coop before “the storm!”

The post-mortem in my house this morning can be seen as a little comical — I’d rather laugh than cry.

Me: “So I’m going to talk to Stephanie about what I should do about the coop and where the chickens can be in the meantime. That sounds like a good plan right? We have to figure out what we are going to do. My poor chickens.”

Him: “Yes, and there is also the matter of the hole in our roof to deal with. I got that.”

Me: “Oh, yes, that’s right.”

Sigh.

Back up about eight sleepless hours to our less-than-fabulous evening. I had checked on my chickens, tucked away snugly in their coop, around 10:45 p.m. There was a storm raging outside but the coop was a nice fortress and protection for the nasty winds, rain and lightning.

I finished up a bit of work, snapped my laptop shut and went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. The wind was really whipping. I could hear it whistling through the windows and could almost feel the house shake.

We’d just gone through a nasty storm during the day Tuesday and unfortunately lost a huge section of our roof. It sucked! But the coop stayed strong. We spent a good 24 hours patting ourselves on the back for Michael’s stellar coop-building skills. And then we doled out several hundred dollars to fix the roof on Wednesday because now we are grownups and that’s the yucky stuff we have to do.

While brushing my teeth — I’m not one to really sit still — I wondered into the kitchen closer to Michael’s office where he was working on a story on his computer.

“Thesh sturm sheemz wurst thahn de least one,” I said through my mouthful of toothpaste and toothbrush standing on my tiptoes to see out the window to get one last check on my coop and little chickies.

It was dark and raining SO hard I couldn’t see the coop in the backyard from that window but I had a bad feeling. I moved to the dining room, peeking out the lower windows.

The coop was overturned.

Me, screaming: “My coop is upside down!”

I ran toward the door, toothbrush still in my mouth, pajamas and no shoes with Michael right on my tail.

It was raining SO hard, torrential downpour. And the wind; the wind was crazy. You couldn’t hear anything. It was kind of surreal. And I was in serious panic mode. My chickens — Mocalotive, Choo-Choo, Olive, Stella, Foghorn Leghorn and Chicken Little — these were my babies. They weren’t just some feathered things we were getting eggs from one of these days. I had grown attached.

And my coop, ah, my coop was so, so cute!

The completed coop

The completed coop

Me, now screaming at the top of my lungs and waving my arms like a crazy person: “We have to flip the coop over! Hurry, we have to flip it over.”

I was prepared to go all Hulk and just pick up this substantial structure and find my chickens safe and dry, chilling underneath.

We both got down on all fours in the mud and muck, rain beating down on us looking for any signs of chickens.

There were none.

Him: “We can’t just flip it over. We might crush them.”

Me, repeatedly, with more tears and even more manic: “No, we have to flip it over!”

Him, much calmer: “Let’s look for them.”

We continued to look through coop rubble and debris from trees but saw nothing.

Him: “Wait, I hear something.”

He points out one lone chicken hiding under a piece of the broken coop. I grab her, plopping her in the feed bucket nearby. But behind her is another chicken. And behind her another. Four chickens piled on top of each other. I nose my way farther into the broken up pieces of wood and find two more chickens.

All were safe!

I run them inside into the garage checking them over again, my breathing returning to a little more normal pace. I go back outside and with Herculean effort flip the coop back over assessing the completely smashed roof.

As the wind continues to try to knock Michael and me over, we decide the coop isn’t safe out there. So we walk it around the house and with the strength of sheer adrenaline I lift my end over my head so we can clear Michael’s car, getting it safely inside the garage.

I got my teenager chickens inside the house, dry them off and gave them a little snuggle before putting them to bed in the basement, in the space they once occupied as chicks.

In the meantime, my responsible, normal, non-chicken-obsessed husband is checking out the house to see if it sustained damage. And of course, it did.

Another section of roof had blown off.

Sigh.

So, here we are, less than eight hours later trying to make sense of the crazy night before.

The roof guy, the same one who replaced a section of the roof on Wednesday, is coming back Saturday to do another job. And while he has an important job in fixing our roof, I’m going to ask if maybe he can fit a reroof of my coop into his busy schedule.

It’s the important things…

Managing expectations

I was editing something for a non-profit I’m involved in, Project Reveal, this morning about expectations and it got me to thinking about my own.

The woman we spoke with talked about how she’d built her life up around expectations but that she only was able to enjoy life when she let go of them and really experienced her world free of them.

That’s a pretty powerful concept. We all have these huge expectations. And expectations can come in lots of forms: hopes, dreams, goals, aspirations… While it is good to have goals and things we want to work toward I think the position we often, well let me stop there and just start speaking for myself, I often find myself in is that I lose track of working toward a positive goal and instead start criticizing myself for not meeting that expectation.

It went from a goal of, “I want to be a more engaged and present mom in the evenings after work” to “I am failing at being there for my boys because I answered those work e-mails and took that phone call.”

Having a plan and a goal is a wonderful thing. I LOVE a plan. But I’m still working on letting go of it if things don’t work out or go as planned — from the simple things such as having a meal out where my kiddos don’t cause a scene to the bigger expectations of being meaningfully engaged in my family, at work and in the community while still having time to breath, I need to loosen up the expectations and give myself a little grace.

Let go of the expectations and gain a little peace.

One day at a time!

Picking up, I mean out, chicks

So the chicken dreams have become a reality.

I think Michael is calling them his chicken nightmares, but that’s another blog post altogether.

Miles and I headed over to Rural King to pick out some chicks. I’d gone myself a few weekends ago and checked out the cute, tiny chicks there. And then went last week twice — once with Miles and once with my chicken guru/awesome friend Stephanie. The chicks then were still on the little side but looking much less fragile.

 

Meet our toddler chicks -- Mocalotive, Choo Choo, Stella, Olive, Foghorn Leghorn and Chicken Little

Meet our toddler chicks — Mocalotive, Choo Choo, Stella, Olive, Foghorn Leghorn and Chicken Little

With Stephanie by my side last week — Owen sleeping snugly against my chest, oblivious to the monumental chicken lesson going on around him — I loaded up my cart with all the chick necessities. I grabbed pine shavings for bedding, chick feed, heat lamp and bulb, a chick feeder and water dish and a few other miscellaneous items. Stephanie loaded me down not only with supplies, but chicken knowledge.

I’ve done my fair share of chicken research (too much my husband says) but nothing compares to firsthand experience from my own personal chicken virtuoso. Stephanie said she’s excited to have her own personal chicken apprentice. We are going to establish our own chicken journeyman certification through this whole process.

So two weekends ago was filled with all the technical stuff — supplies and knowledge. When Saturday finally rolled around I was ready to get my hands on some chicks!
So back to heading over to Rural King … the selection of breeds was a little lighter than I’d hoped but there were plenty of chicks there ready to find a good home. And instead of being tiny, cute, itty-bitty chicks they were more like toddler chicks. Don’t get me wrong, they were still awfully adorable. A bit of me was a little sad but then I remembered just how fragile Stephanie had described the newborn chicks and the extra tedious (and sometimes icky) tasks that goes along with them. So I celebrated my decision to wait until the chicks were about four weeks old to pick them up. My biggest disappointment was kind of a trivial one — I really wanted the Ameraucana breed chicks because their eggs are a neat blue/green hue.

The two breeds that they had pullets (female chicks) in were Silver Wyandotte and Light Brahmas. Miles and I scoped out the bins walking around a few times. He excitedly dipped his hand inside causing the sea of chicks to run in the opposite direction. I found a chick box and started selecting our future little chickies.

My process was, as should be expected from me, a little different. I didn’t just grab the first three from each bin that I could then called it a day. I wanted Miles to be able to select a few.

I was too distracted by my tiny helper to get any pictures during the actual chick picking stage. But here they are ready to go home.

I was too distracted by my tiny helper to get any pictures during the actual chick picking stage. But here they are ready to go home.

“That one,” he excitedly said. “That one with the speckle, right there. That one, that one!”
So of course, I HAD to get THAT one. My hands darted up and down the metal tub trying to grasp what must have been the fastest, sneakiest of the bunch. Each requested chicken was more elusive than the last.

After he’d selected four, I wiped the sweat from my brow and decided that last two I would pick out. I overheard two employees talking about needing to separate a few chicks because some had gotten picked on. AWWW! So of course I mosey over there eavesdropping and then just butt right on in.
“Which two are the most picked on?” I asked, tears almost welling in my silly eyes. “Let me rescue them!”
They, of course, laughed at me causing my little monkey-see, monkey-do little guy laugh hysterically.

“Mama, you are SO silly!” he cried, practically rolling on the floor.

Kid, it wasn’t that funny.

Anyway, the high school kid employees go to great lengths (seriously, one of them even stepped in the bin to track down this poor, feather missing chick) to procure the bullied chicks for me.

Done!

I had my six chicks, a 3-year-old and said 3-year-old’s stuffed owl that he INSISTED come into the store with us. And no cart. Yep, you read that correctly. It’s like I’m a glutton for punishment.

So as I surmise the situation — three little cartons of live chicks, a squirmy kid who does not want to leave the chicken area of the store and a stuffed animal that said kid will now no longer have anything to do with — I start to come up with the most plausible out, bribery.

“Hey Miles, if we go home we can get a special treat!”

“What treat? Nevermind, I don’t want a treat. I want to stay here! I want to be with the chickens and the bunnies. I want to stay ALL DAY LONG!”

“When we get home we have our own chickens that we can play with.”

“But mom, there’s lots of chickens right here!”

Desperate I look around.

The yellow, painted chicken tracks leading from the front door back to the chicks catch my eye. Yes.

“Miles, let’s follow the duck path!”

“Oh, OK!”

Easy, peasy.

We miraculously make it to the car with six still-alive chicks and get everything back in the house and set up. Miles names two chicks — Mocalotive and Choo Choo; Michael begrudgingly threw two literary chicken names in the mix — Foghorn Leghorn and Chicken Little; and I used girl names that I loved when we were having babies — Olive and Stella.

Chicks in their mood lighting.

Chicks in their mood lighting.

The little chicks seem pretty happy. Right now they are cozy in an oversized tote in our basement complete with a red heat-bulb keeping them toast. Michael put together the coop Sunday afternoon as Miles played and Owen cooed in the sun.

So far all is good on the Doyle farm. I’ll update you when the chicks have made their way outside.​

The directions for assembling the coop were one page of pictures... no words. And he used all the pieces and lost no limbs! Good job honey!

The directions for assembling the coop were one page of pictures… no words. And he used all the pieces and lost no limbs! Good job honey!

The completed coop

The completed coop

Antsy for chickens

My husband rolled his eyes when I first approached the idea of getting backyard chickens.

We were still renting so he didn’t worry too much about it saying, “Sure, you can get chickens one of these days.”

Well, that day is finally here!

It’s been nearly a year since we bought our house (I still can’t believe that) and the chicken-keeping requirements are falling into place. And while Michael is far from excited he’s on board as long as he doesn’t have to deal with said chickens.

The biggest chicken tool — the coop is almost here. I have spent the last several months scouring Craigslist and online yard sales looking for secondhand coops but found none that would work so I switched my research over to the best coop I could get in our “beginner chicken” price range.

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I am certain I’m going to love having our own sweet, little flock of hens in our “urban” setting but Michael isn’t so certain. So while I wanted quality, I didn’t want to break the bank on something he isn’t yet convinced will be around for more than a month or two. I read blogs, message boards, countless Amazon and eBay reviews, consulted my resident chicken guru and friend Stephanie and even went to a few brick and mortar stores to check them out first hand.

We finally, well I finally, settled on one. It’s adorable and green and looks like a little house. Seriously this thing is cute.

It is supposed to be here today (my tracking is telling me it is in Evansville but there’s a “delay in delivery due to weather or natural disaster”) so I’m hoping maybe we can get it assembled as soon as this silly white stuff is gone.

My Facebook ads always revolved around baby topics such as cloth diapers and breast feeding but now it is all chicken coop and feed. It’s like the ads are taunting me making me even more eager to start my feathered adventure.

The next step is more research. I need to determine what breed of chicken to get. I’ve done a little research but haven’t quite decided what’s the most important factor — egg output, egg color, appearance, friendliness, heartiness … I can’t decide. My dream flock would be diverse and fluffy giving me a lot of a variety of different egg colors (cream, brown, blue, green), could handle warm summers and cold winters and would love to be held by me and Miles.

I know, I know … if wishes were chicken poop I’d soon have whatever I wanted.

Speaking of chicken poop …