Too Hick To Be Square

Our code names put Bond to shame

Every family has nicknames.

As an especially large family, the Clan has an especially large number of nicknames. In fact, most of us have at least two nicknames, and some have closer to six.

This makes getting to know our family a little difficult. Introductions with the Clan are always an interesting process because we take a certain gleeful pleasure in rattling off all our names to guests or strangers, and then warning them that “there will be a quiz later.”

Memorizing 13 names (and putting them to the correct faces) is a pretty significant challenge, but it would be at least a little easier if we actually called each other by our names in conversations. Unfortunately for anyone trying to figure out who’s who, that’s not something we reliably do.

I’m just as likely to call my younger brothers by one of their many nicknames as I am to call them by their actual names. Becca hardly ever gets called by her actual name, and then it’s usually because she’s being yelled at or recruited for a chore.

Becca has at least 4 nicknames that get used at least as often as we use her actual name.

Also, as you’ve probably noticed by this point, I refer to most of my siblings by one of their nicknames here on the blog. You didn’t really think my parents actually decided to name someone something like Tubby or Nah, did you?

Of course, none of this makes it any easier for the poor souls trying to figure out who’s who in the Clan. And I feel truly sorry for them for this.

But if it makes you feel any better, my siblings and I don’t have it that easy ourselves. All those names and nicknames are hard to keep straight, even for us. We routinely call each other by the wrong name, or half start three different names before we figure out which one we’re looking for.

And yet, as difficult as it is to remember our nicknames, before Pete got his nickname, we nicknamed him The Boy With No Nickname.

Mom has problems remembering all our names, too. It’s gotten to the point now with the thirteen of us that to counteract the issue of having multiple personal nicknames, we’ve created some generic, placeholder names that Mom uses when she can’t remember who she’s actually trying to talk to.

These are names like Larry or Jeff. We all know if Mom resorts to Larry and hard pointing, it’s best not to quibble about the finer points of names. Also, although this doesn’t happen very often, when we completely blank on a name, “Hey you!” also works.

And then as if it weren’t confusing enough already, in addition to our real names, our multitude of nicknames, and names like “Larry” that could be directed at anyone, we also have code names for each other.

These are really the icing on top of the cake, the final layer of confusion that continuously makes people (including ourselves) throw up in their hands in despair. If you thought it was bad enough already hearing one person get called by 3 different names in the space of one conversation, just wait until we start talking about code names Ringworm, Cheeseball, and Dishpan.

When on secret missions, we respond to Moonbeam, Cheeseball, and Ragweed, respectively.

I can neither confirm nor deny whether having code names means we’re super secret spy agents, although the code names come in very handy when we’re going on top secret missions. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re secret agents because as it turns out, being a secret agent is mutually exclusive from having a code name and going on secret missions.

Even though these three have assigned code names Greaserag, Rosebud, and Cupid (from left to right), I can’t neither confirm nor deny that they’re secret agents. Rosebud in particular isn’t very good at secrets.

And the fact that we have much cooler code names than James Bond is also irrelevant, even though we all agree Dishpan is definitely a more awesome code name than Agent 007.

Luckily, Dishpan has cat-like reflexes, so he probably survived this sneak attack.

However, besides the code names the Clan has nothing in common with James Bond or any other secret agent, so I would say there’s really no proof that we’re secret agents of any kind. We just happen to have code names and sometimes go on secret missions.

As you can see from Agent Fencepost’s example, we don’t do the suit-and-tie look.

By the way, if you were interested in the parent perspective on the whole nicknaming situation, here’s the scoop. Before any of us were born, Mom and Dad were certain they didn’t want names for us that could be made into goofy nicknames. They named my oldest brother David because they were pretty sure they could insist that his name was David and not Dave or Davy. They named the rest of us with that same thing in mind.

But then Dad had nicknames for everyone and we started the secret mission code names. So that idea didn’t work out quite exactly as planned. If you ask my parents, though, they’ll still insist that we still do not have nicknames really.

That’s good to know.

The moral of the story of the multitude of Clan nicknames, if there is one, is that at this point we’ll answer to pretty much anything: our name, a nickname, a code name, or even a sibling’s name if we’re not paying attention. I couldn’t tell you how many times Mom has called someone by the wrong name and they still responded.

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Balance your peanut butter between gravel and soup

The Clan makes a lot of our food ourselves.

In addition to gardening and canning like the crazy idiots we are, we also bake our own bread, keep bees and harvest our own honey, hunt and process our own venison, and raise chickens—for eggs and other things.

But because we take this home-grown/home-produced food adventure so seriously (do you have any idea how many trips to the grocery store all this work saves us?) we also make our own peanut butter.
Compared to some of the other things we make (we’ve put up over 1,000 quarts of canned goods so far this year), making peanut butter is one of the more simple and straightforward things we do. It’s also very handy for us to do because we go through a lot of peanut butter.

The Clan has toast for breakfast almost every day of the week, and around here, peanut butter is one of the preferred spreads (although we can also knock out a quart of jam in record time). If you’re feeding 13 kids toast five or six days out of the week, and each kid has between 2 and 7 pieces of toast…I’m not that great at word problems and math, but even I know that this amounts to a lot of toast and a lot of peanut butter being consumed.This is especially true when you consider how some of my siblings slap that stuff on. I’m not a peanut butter fan, but some of my brothers are on the skinny side. This is significant to the Clan because to us, a skinny little boy means that they’re going to be the first ones to get cold and blue in the face when we go swimming at Lake Louise on the chilly side of summer. To prevent that, we encourage them to eat lots of peanut butter throughout the year.

It’s not just the skinny little boys who know how to really pile on the spreads. M’s been known to consider an inch of jam “not very much.”

We look out for each other. It’s what siblings do.

Of course, this means that keeping us in peanut butter is a monumental task. We go through a pint of peanut butter almost every week. We haven’t bought regular peanut butter like Skippys or Jif in so long that I don’t really know how much that might end up costing us, but I like to think we save ourselves some time and money by making our own.To make our peanut butter, we buy roasted, salted peanuts in bulk from Fleet Farm whenever they’re on sale. Then whenever our peanut butter supply gets low, we just run a few bags through the food process and ta-da! We can turn a one-pound bag of peanuts into a pint of peanut butter in about five minutes!

Of course, one of the hazards of making your own peanut butter is that it’s hard to accurately gauge the degree of crunchiness or creaminess your peanut butter will have once you stop the food processor. Depending on how long we leave it in there, our peanut butter could be much crunchier than crunchy peanut butter from the store, or it could turn out much creamier than your average creamy peanut butter.

Clan peanut butter has fallen on both extremes of the crunchy/creamy spectrum. First-time peanut butter makers (or even peanut butter pros who got a little distracted) can sometimes leave the food processor running for a couple extra minutes until they remember what they were supposed to be doing. The result is a super smooth peanut puree that is more like peanut soup than peanut butter. I mean, when your peanut butter is actually flowing off your toast, something isn’t quite right.Unfortunately, overcompensating for the last batch of peanut soup can cause problems, too. We discovered early on in our search for the perfect peanut butter consistency that there is such a thing as “too crunchy” in the world of peanut butter.

“Too crunchy” happens when whoever was making peanut butter stopped the food processor a minute or more before the peanut butter was really “butter” and decided that was good enough. Large chunks of peanut in a thick, barely spreadable paste may be crunchy heaven for some people, but we’ve noticed it has a disappointing tendency to rip your toast to pieces. Shredded toast in the morning tends to take the edge off our appetites.However, as long as we’re not on either of the consistency extremes, we’re really not very picky. As far as the Clan is concerned, peanut butter is pretty much just peanut butter, and it sticks to your ribs just as well regardless of whether it’s super crunchy or super creamy. It’s only when we’re dealing with soup or gravel that we have to draw the line.

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Style like a Clanster—with 2 ties!

I’ll just say this right now: the Clan isn’t very fashion conscious.

At all.

For many of us, “dressed up” amounts to a clean pair of jeans and a t-shirt without any obvious stains on it. Our signature style, if we have one, incorporates lots of bare, dirty feet and jeans with gaping holes in the knees from crawling around on the carpet counts as a style. (We don’t believe in spending extra money for jeans with rips in them—I know how to rip my own, thank you very much!)But although we don’t have a clue what kind of clothes are currently “in” as far as the fashion industry is concerned, there are certain outfits that have come out of closets at our house that would definitely be making a statement if they ever made it to a runway.

The first is a classic: clashing patterns. You’ve probably seen this look before, possibly in your own house. Polka dots and stripes or two different plaids or two completely contrasting prints (usually in wildly clashing colors as well).

We’ve had all these different looks come and go, but we know that with the clashing patterns looks, it’s important to not go halfway. That’s why our personal favorite version of this style incorporates tie dye and camouflage.

What we really like about combining tie dye and camo is that it can never go wrong, no matter what kind of fashion statement you’re trying to make. Whether you’re trying to blend in or stand out, you can just wear tie dye and camo and do both!

Another one we really like is seasonally inappropriate attire. This is different from seasonally appropriate attire, and is a lot more fun. What counts as seasonally inappropriate attire obviously depends on the time of year, but two rules of thumb to work by when dressing in this style is that you should wear long-sleeve shirts, long pants, and socks in July, and switch to sleeveless shirts and shorts in the dead of winter.

The Clan is very skilled at pulling off this kind of look. In fact, we sometimes wear shorts and sleeveless shirts so often in the winter that Mom makes us go put on socks because we’re making her cold. (I think I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: Mom is super unreasonable.)


Something else that’s fun is when we try to model dress-up clothes. I’m going to pretend I never participated in this particular fad (and since I couldn’t find any photographic evidence of it, I think I can get away with it). But Jo and Becca have had some real fun modeling the super glitzy, sequins-sparkles-and-frills looks.

According to Jo, sequins and orange plaid go together extremely well.

On the other end of the spectrum is the classic cowboy look that Fro was modeling earlier. And as you saw, he even paired it with tie dye for maximum effect.

Since Becca has started dressing herself, she’s come up with some real stunners—she has more than the sparkly princess look up her sleeve. I think one of her favorites is the double skirt.

This one is interesting because Clan girls wear shorts under their skirts (particularly when we’re little and still want to roll around and play as usual). Becca does this, but she goes a little overboard with the whole “wearing clothes under the dress/skirt” idea. She’ll get dressed in the morning in one of her dresses, and then she’ll put on a long skirt underneath. And then she’ll add a pair of shorts underneath everything.

Becca has also been known to pair a yarn poncho with shorts and sandals when there’s 10 inches of snow outside. She’s classy that way.As a family, we’ve developed some really fun looks, but there are certain members of the Clan, such as Becca, that are particularly adept at coming up with exciting new clothing ensembles to surprise us with. A couple years ago I talked about the different trends in headwear adopted by David, Eli, and Skinny, but they’re not the only ones who have a thing for hats. Nah has had some really interesting ones that put David’s top hat to shame.

There’s his leaf hat…His jester hat…And his really stylish scarf hat (quick-dry, breathable headgear called a Buff—check them out HERE)…In fact, I think if we have a fashion expert around here, Nah would be it. He’s had too many different “looks” to count, ranging from his fantastic hats to some snazzy sunglasses. His most memorable look, however, is the double tie.Blame Mom and her crazy garage-sale purchases for this one. One year she randomly came across some clip-on ties that cost next to nothing, and she bought them to add to our box of dress-up clothes. Nah got ahold of them, and the next day he was rocking it with two ties! (Sadly, no one thought to get a picture of this moment, but it was pretty darn cool all the same).

What’s funniest about this to me, and there’s a lot that could be funny, is that I’m pretty sure Nah didn’t think twice about wearing two ties at the same time. He lives around enough weird people on a daily basis that I think a double tie sounded like a sound, logical decision. If nothing else, it was definitely stylish!

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Campaign trail for “Becca’s Favorite Sibling” is brutal

In many ways, the Clan pretty much lives under a rock. We don’t have TV, we don’t follow most national or even regional news very closely at all (does perusing headlines every week or so count?), and some of us just don’t get out very often. It’s not that we’re completely clueless, but there are certain topics about which we’re either ignorant or, well, clueless.

I frequently find myself in the clueless category, especially when it comes to major news items. If I’m not at work or school, you’ll find me at home, ignoring the general public with a single-minded dedication that is peculiar to homebodies. On top of that, I’m also well-insulated by a thick layer of obliviousness, so even if I do leave the house, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll still be clueless when I come back.

But although the vast majority of us are usually several days (or even weeks) behind on current headlines or trending news stories, that doesn’t mean we don’t know a thing or two about politics.

Our expertise in this area doesn’t come from watching political debates or carefully following past elections. It has nothing to do with any of the American Government Mom has tried to teach us, and most of what I know about politics also has nothing to do with the Political Science classes I’ve taken in college (although you can’t blame my professor for that, because he’s awesome).

Instead, our knowledge of the wheeling and dealing of politics comes from playing favorites.

Specifically, playing favorites with Becca.At 7 years old, Becca is the youngest in the Clan. She might not be babied as much as the youngest in smaller families might be (the charm of having a “baby in the family” wore off about the 7th time around), but we still cut her a considerable amount of slack. I’ve already talked about how important cuteness is, and because Becca was the one who was most recently cute and funny instead of stubborn and obnoxious like the rest of us, we’re willing to put up with a little more. There’s something to be said for being the last one in the family to fall asleep in their spaghetti.So if Becca decides that it’s important to rank each and every one of her siblings in order of favorites—“Most favorite brother,” “fourth favorite sister,” and so on—we’ll play along.


As a matter of fact, we do more than play along. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Clan is a very competitive family. As far as I’ve been able to tell, there is no discernible reward for being Becca’s favorite sibling. In fact, sometimes it’s a real pain in the neck to be her favorite, because then she feels mysteriously obligated to make you play with her.

(Funny how that works.)

And yet, despite the complete lack of perks, we still compete for the rank of “most favorite sister” or “more favorite brother” with considerable enthusiasm. However, earning the privilege of being Becca’s favorite isn’t nearly as easy as you might think.In fact, the campaign trail for that particular position is singularly brutal. For one thing, the judging panel (a panel of one) is incredibly fickle. The requirements for the position are pretty vague, and they fluctuate wildly. It’s impossible to tell what it’s going to take to make or break someone’s campaign for “most favorite” – sometimes it’s hard to even tell if you’re campaigning or not! Some of my best efforts (which have included shameless bribery) have had absolutely no effect. Other times, I come home and find to my complete surprise that I was just promoted to the top.

While this can come as a pleasant surprise, it’s not a long-lived promotion by any means. Becca doesn’t appear to need a reason to completely change the order of her favorites, so she does it frequently. One day I’m her 2nd favorite, and before I can ever decide what that means, I’ve been demoted to 4th or even 5th.

I tell you. The campaign trail is long, hard, and pretty darn confusing.

When this kid is the one counting the votes, it’s impossible to even begin to guess what’s going to happen next.

The prominence of bribery is another problem with competing to be Becca’s favorite. Or maybe it’s the unreliability of bribery. As I said before, sometimes bribes have absolutely no effect—something you never know until too late. Remember that stubborn and obnoxious attitude I mentioned earlier? Becca isn’t quite as far gone as the rest of us, but she’s getting there fast.

Sometimes she likes to make you think she put some thought into her decisions. I’m never really sure if I should believe that or not.

But although the effectiveness of bribery is hard to predict with any degree of accuracy, there’s no doubt that Becca is easily influenced. Give her a dishwasher chore or tell her to make her bed, and you’ve just sunk your entire campaign—even if you didn’t know you had one. On the other hand, you could go straight to the top if you help her put her hair up for the day. (This should probably happen more than once per day, but no one around here seems to really care that much about what Becca’s hair looks like)In other words, this is one political arena that’s impossible to predict. It’s more volatile and prone to complete upsets and surprises than any other campaign in history. The fight to be her favorite is long and unrelenting, without any perks to come with it.

Kinda makes you wonder why we try so hard. It’s almost like we’re being manipulated. Weird.

By the way, in case you were wondering where I’m standing right now in my “Most Favorite Sister” campaign, I’m currently her most favorite. Don’t bother to memorize that, though. I’m sure it’ll change before the day is over.

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