Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Brand New Day

I believe that life will be as hard or as easy as you make it. You can say that you are having a bad day, and then your day will continue to be bad as long as you think it. The same applies to saying you are having a good day. Can it be so simple? Can positive thinking really change the outcome of the day? I think so. Not always, because how can the death of a loved one taken so suddenly be looked at positively? How can a broken heart be seen as a good thing right at that moment. But in the long run, I really think your outlook changes the end result.

I have a friend, bless her heart, who finds fault with many things and with people. She will remember a time 15 years ago, that someone said something bad to her and will not let it fall into the past. She will talk about an event over and over and there is no use trying to change the subject. You can see in her eyes that she is really disturbed by it and her face shows such displeasure and just her body language tells that she is unhappy about it. I have watched her and I love her and accept that this is her. She is so set in her ways that she knows no other lifestyle or way of thinking. I accept her and love her as she is. Because I know this of her, it is easy for me to listen and at the end of the day, I don't feel burdened or angry at why she is this way. She just is.

I have watched her and learned that this is not the way I want to be. I do not want to hold a grudge against someone for the rest of my life and let this grudge eat at my soul. I do not want to look at things in a negative way and taint my view of life and people. I want to have an open mind and learn new things, meet new people, and forgive old enemies. I have learned to forgive and let go. To leave the past in the past and remember the good things. If someone has hurt me, I'll forgive and I will let go, but I will be more wary the next time and not be so careless with my heart. For that is what we do, we open ourselves to new people and experiences and we let them hold our hearts or our souls, we grasp their hands and trust in them to lead us and take care of us and not to cause harm to us.

I have looked into my life and the people that I surround myself with. I try to stay near to positive people and experiences. I have whittled away the negative things in my life and tossed away extra baggage. What I have left is something I am happy with. I have my Hubby, I have my 3 daughters, my home and my little projects that make me smile. I have a few close friends and family. This is what makes my life enjoyable. I am a big believer in what goes around, comes around. I try not to say anything bad about anyone and try to treat everyone that I meet kindly and with respect. I don't need Karma to hunt me down and bite me in the ass over some unkind thing I did or said.

Granted, I have my days where I struggle not to let negative thoughts pull me down. I have to really will that glass to be half full and not half empty. But I like to think that if you think it, feel it, know it and live it, your life can be better. You have a choice to make when you open your eyes in the morning, you can wake and say, "It's a new day!" or you can say, "Ugh! Another day." I made my choice, what's yours?

Monday, July 30, 2007

This one. No, that one! Wait, maybe it's this one...

We've been having a bit of trouble with the Power Company. Their billing systems are a little strange but I suppose they help the low-income customers. By this, I mean they average out your bill so you pay the same amount every month instead of higher during summer months where you use more power for the air conditioner or lower during winter months when there are alternative heat sources besides electricity. I don't like this system. I like seeing exactly how much electricity I used that month and pay for it.

Money is tight and I was a little late on paying the Power Company. Oops! I expected to pay a late fee and be done with it. No, they sent me multiple billing statements, and it confused the hell out of me! I once got two separate bills in the same day from them with different amounts. I paid the one I thought I was supposed to pay and apparently I screwed it up even more and got 7 more separate billing statements. WTF?!? One of the letters said our power would be cut off on July 30th (today!!) if I didn't pay the outstanding bill. So I wrote a check for one of the bills and sent that off.

Hubby called the Power Company this morning because they called him last Friday saying the power was going to be shut off Monday unless the balance was paid. I thought I just paid it! Turns out they wanted me to pay a different bill. I told Hubby to tell them to stop sending me so many damn bills and I wouldn't get so damned confused on which one to pay! They told Hubby that the order was already given to shut our power off and he had to run to their bank directly and pay and then call back with the receipt number and then they'd call the electric man to cancel the order. The woman on the phone told us we owed this much and shit, we didn't have enough funds in the account, so Hubby would have to drive to the bank and deposit some money to cover the check. The bank is an hours drive away. I would keep watch for the electric man and if he came up the drive I was going to get on my hands and knees and cry crocodile tears and beg him (her?) not to turn off the power.

So, Hubby drives like a madman to the bank, then turns around to rush to their bank only to find out he needed the account number for the Power Company. Agh! He rushes home and gives the Power Company a quick call to tell them he is on the way and to please "call off the dogs". Then the lady on the phone tells him he can pay over the phone and the amount they needed was far less than the original amount. Hubby could have saved himself an hour's drive to our bank to deposit money. Sonofa#$%&$%^#$%$&%^$!!!!! See what I mean?? Even when we talk to them on the phone they confuse us!

I would change power companies except this Power Company has a monopoly on the state so we are out of luck on that. From now on, I will be sure to pay the Power Company's bill the minute I receive it (them?). This was not worth the headache and higher blood pressure, not to mention 80 miles of wasted gas. But at least we still have power. I have started to think about ways to use less electricity so we aren't so dependent on them. Break out the grill and cook outside more. Hang more wash on the line. Turning off all the lights and appliances that don't get used much: microwave, stereo, copier... Get battery-powered clocks. Any other ideas???

Friday, July 27, 2007

Unwelcome Visitor

I am having a visitor here and she isn't very well liked. I am not ashamed to say it to her face that I don't like her. She is mean to me. She socks me in the stomach and makes me double over in pain. She fights dirty and I feel all sore and achy for a week. She forces me to eat when I don't want to. She makes my clothes tighter and I have to suck in my breath to button my pants. I end up wearing my jammies all week because it's the only thing comfortable. She comes every month and stays for a whole week each time. Oh how I loathe Aunt Flo's visits!

I have always had terrible visits with Aunt Flo.. So when I first got pregnant with Oldest, I was excited about the baby, but I was more excited about not having my period for a whole 9 months! Then when I found out that breastfeeding sometimes kept Aunt Flo away, that only made me more surer of my decision to breastfeed. How lovely it was not to fiddle around with tampons and pads. To not wake up and find a bloody stain on the sheets from an overflowing pad. To not have crippling cramps and back ache and turning into Freddy Kreuger every month.

At Oldest's first birthday party, I found out I was pregnant with Middle. I still hadn't had a visit from Aunt Flo yet!! Another glorious 9 months of nothing and I was going to nurse Middle as long as I could! I nursed Middle until she was about 15 months old when she was starting to wean herself off the boob. I finally got my first period in 3 years and 7 months. I only got one visit from her before I got pregnant again with youngest. Oh yeah! Oh baby! I was up for round 3! But Youngest weaned herself off of the boob at only 10 months. No matter how much I waved the boob in her face, she looked the other way. I squirted milk in her mouth, nothing. *sob!* No-o-o-o!!!

Aunt Flo returned shortly after and she came back with a vengeance! She was going to make me PAY for avoiding her for 5 years and 2 months. The only thing that makes me crawl out of bed, whimpering, is the girls. For my girls, I drag myself, lifeless, through the house to make them breakfast and then crawl to the nearest chair. Oh, lunchtime? Have a pop-tart. Snack? Toss some fruit in their direction. Dinner? Want another pop-tart?

My amazing Hubby knows when Aunt Flo is about to visit. As a matter of fact, he knows before I do! She used to be very punctual and came every 4 weeks, exactly, and stayed a full 7 days, exactly. Now? She comes and goes as she pleases, but it's always for a full 7 days, the bitch! But Hubby, wonderful Hubby, can smell a change in my breath and he tells me I have "period breath"! Sure enough, within a couple of days, she is here! Thanks to Hubby, I get a little heads-up and try to avoid the bloody stain on the sheets or getting a surprise in my pants the next time I gotta pee.

Tomorrow morning, Hubby's parents are coming over for lunch. I love when they come to visit and the girls get to see Grandma and Granddaddy! I just didn't expect to have Aunt Flo here, too. And the In-Laws? They like to come early, like 8:30 in the morning early. Which means I will have no time to sleep off some of Aunt Flo's period hangover. So I am off to bed early and I am going to strangle Aunt Flo, but the bitch always wins.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Mighty Oak

Living in the mountains on a large piece of land equates to having a lot of trees. Our property is gently sloping with the rear yard slightly higher than the front yard. But for the most part, our yard is level. There is no chance of the girls playing with a ball and if it goes out of reach, it won't keep rolling down the hill. No, we don't live on such an extreme hill and would not want to live on a steep hill. The owners before us leveled off a large area that totals maybe 3 or 4 acres and is fairly even. One acre is reserved for the garden area, and the rest for the house and yard around the house and pole barn.

The rest of the property is trees. Trees of all shapes and sizes. Oak, locust, pine, maple, tulip, ash and more. We love all the trees and welcome the shade they give us, the wood we burn for heat and the yearly fall extravaganza. Some of these trees have probably seen pioneers heading West and civil war soldiers marching by, or former slaves escaping to the North. Maybe even Hillbillies making moonshine from stills made of old car parts. What these trees could tell us if they could talk.

We have a great old Oak tree that sits on the edge of our property right on the shoulder of the main road. We can't see it from the house, but you can't miss it as you pull out of the driveway. Hubby frets about some of the trees that sit along the road, worries that the earth erodes away from the roots and weakens the support structure of the trees and someday, they may fall. He hopes they won't fall on a car or cause an accident. The edge of our property sits about 4 or 5 feet above the road, so every year, normal erosion causes the dirt to wash away and roots get exposed.

We had a heavy rain storm last night and on my way to the food store this morning, I saw pieces of our Oak tree all over the road that someone cleared away and dumped on the other side of the road. As soon as I came back home, I told Hubby and he went out to inspect the damage. While the Oak tree still stands, a humongous limb cracked and fell on the road. The neighbor across the road came out and said it happened in the night and she heard chainsaws going with lights flashing through her bedroom window. We put all the wood and branches into Hubby's truck and hauled it to the back yard. There is still a huge chunk of limb sitting in the ditch that is just too heavy for us to lift and Hubby will attack it with a chain saw later, if no one else claims it for firewood.

After clipping off all the thin branches and leaves, I tried to count all the rings and counted over 50 before I gave up. The limb alone is over 60 years old!! Imagine how old the whole Oak tree is!

Hubby wants to hire a tree trimming company and have them come to cut down the Oak tree along with a few others that look one heavy storm away from toppling over. I grieve for the Oak tree, and hate to see it come down, but I know that it is time to say good-bye. Looking up into its canopy of leaves, you can see other dead limbs and signs of rot in parts of the trunk. Looking in the base, right above the mass of roots, there is a hole almost halfway through. I think last night we were lucky that the limb didn't fall on a car or kill someone and the next time might not be so lucky. I take comfort in knowing that there are plenty of Oak's offspring growing around that tree, and all it's wood will be used to heat our home for the winter.

I think, out of respect for that Mighty Oak, I'll take one of it's acorns and plant it along the driveway. Nurture it and watch it grow (I smell a home school lesson here!). And if it is lucky, it may live as long as it's ancestor did.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Schmoozer? Me?

Drunk Mummy has awarded me this Schmooze Award! I feel quite honored and am also speechless! I'm a schmoozer? Me? Really? I never would have thought. I always thought of Schmoozers to be the type of people that snake their way into the hottest parties and hob-nob with the best of them to be able to get what they want. I see Schmoozers as successful people who rely on others to float them and pay their way. The American Heritage Dictionary defines Schmooze as Slang: To converse casually, especially in order to gain an advantage or make a social connection. In that case, I guess I am a schmoozer because I DO want to make a social connection to you. But in no way am I snaking around looking to gain an advantage.

Drunk Mummy said this about me: "Jenny at Mountain Mama, who has such a warm, conversational style, you feel that you are sitting right next to her, at the kitchen table of her lovely mountain home. Download the shiny badge, Jenny, and enjoy!" I feel giddy reading that and hope that many of you feel the same way, feeling welcome to sit at my kitchen table with a plate of home made jam and bread with cold iced tea (or hot if you lean that way). If there is any kind of schmoozing I do, I do it with food. I love to cook and bake and usually make all the food when when we have parties. I try to make it different every time and love to see the happy people enjoying my food. If I did my schmoozing right, you'll help yourself to washing the pile of dishes sitting on the counter!

Thank you Drunk Mummy for your thoughtfulness and for this award. I have many to whom I would like to pass this on to, but will only pick one.. This Schmoozing Award goes to.. (drum roll please).. Dj Kirkby of Exquisite Dreams. She has been schmoozing her soon-to-be former boss and co-workers for a smooth release to a new job and I think she could use the encouragement. Her blog is one I read daily and enjoy when she responds to my comments, making me feel like a friend. A Schmoozer, indeed! :o) Paste this pretty badge on your blog and just ooze with Schmooze! Enjoy!

Monday, July 23, 2007

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I am at war with my garden. Mother Nature can be wonderful-- giving us warm sun and rain to make the garden grow, but then she can be mean with all the bugs and weeds that threaten to eat and choke my hard work. I have spent the last week or so, on my hands and knees, looking for tomato hornworms* (caterpillars). They are vile and evil looking things. Their color perfectly matches the color of the tomato stems and green tomatoes, that the only way I can spot them is to look for fresh droppings. Yes, caterpillar poop. I am on my hands and knees looking for caterpillar poop. When I see a bunch of black spots, I know there must be a caterpillar in the tomato plant somewhere. I search and turn over every leaf until I finally spot it, a long green caterpillar, with a spike for a tail and stripes along the body. If left unchecked, they grow the length of your middle finger, fat and disgusting (the caterpillar, not your finger). So far, all the ones I have found are still relatively small-- the size of a pen cap.I pulled off 8 last night and dropped them into a bucket of water. I don't touch 'em-- ewww! No, no.. I use an old water bottle with the bottom cut off and scrape the caterpillar off. It drops into the bottle and then I drop it into the bucket of water. I am a bare hands gardener and find it irritating to use gloves while I garden. Hubby gets after me for that, but there is nothing like getting my hands dirty, digging into the dirt and pulling weeds. Besides that, I have large hands and even the ladies size XL gloves are still a little snug on me. The men's size small are too big! What's a girl to do? But I digress. After a night of soaking caterpillars in a bucket of water, they drown and I dump 'em out in the far corner of the garden. I pulled off 4 more this afternoon and took a picture for you to see. See?While I am protecting my tomato plants from evil, green tomato caterpillars, I also have to fend off groundhogs and deer. Some of my lovely corn stalks have been chewed off by deer and while walking to the garden today, I scared off the groundhog. I found several half-eaten green tomatoes pulled off the vines, thanks to Mr. Groundhog. Did I mention we also have moles?? Now my garden is under attack from underground!! Last year, I planted carrots and radishes, and not a single one grew to harvest size because of the mole(s?). I didn't bother with the carrots and radishes this year. They're cheap enough to buy at the food store anyway, though they don't compare in taste.

Gardening is all about trial and error. Finding what works and figuring out what doesn't. At the old house, I had no problems with tomato caterpillars-- in fact, I never heard of or saw one before, until we moved up here. Last year, when I first saw the caterpillars, they were at the full grown size, and I nearly peed my pants! I knocked one off to show my mom and she never saw one before, either. I wanted her to kill it for me and she wouldn't. I didn't want to step on it-- eww! Just imagine all the green guts on the bottom of my shoe! So I did the next easiest thing-- tossed it on the road and let the cars going by do the work for me. Then I let hubby take the caterpillars and toss 'em into the fire pit while he burns leaves and twigs. I am little more brave this year and drown 'em. Call me cruel, but I don't want to share my tomatoes with a bunch of caterpillars.

The rest of the garden is faring well so far. My corn stalks are taller than me and just about ready to eat. Watermelon and cantaloupe are about the size of golf balls and I am dreaming of biting into their juicy goodness! Something keeps eating my snow peas so I have yet to eat any, when by now, I should have had 30 or 40 pods. But my biggest success is the tomatoes-- 25 plants thriving! I look forward to canning them come harvest time.

Speaking of canning, I made and canned my last two batches of blackberry jam yesterday. There are still plenty of berries to make more jam, but I am tired of the squeezing stage of making jam and I have enough to last a year, for us and for gifts. I'll pick more berries for desserts and on top of ice cream and then the birds can have the rest. * For more info on tomato hornworms, feel free to check out this website: www.whatsthatbug.com/tomato.html

Friday, July 20, 2007

Adventures at the Food Store

I went to the food store this morning and took all 3 girls with me. Hubby had to take in my car for it's yearly inspection and to get a shaking problem looked at (tire was out of balance-- whew! Cheap fix!). He went that-a-way and I went this-a-way. After the car was done, Hubby was going to catch up with me at the food store and give me a hand with the girls.

Being a Friday morning, 10 ish, the place wasn't too busy yet. I wanted to get there before Saturday when they are super busy and all the sale items are gone. So we made it down 3 aisles before Hubby caught up with us. So far, the girls were fine. I had Youngest strapped in the cart while the older 2 were walking along with me. Sometimes they would run ahead, or linger behind me. Either way, I am constantly looking around making sure both are within eyesight while at the same time, scanning the rows of goods for what I need.

Seems like when Hubby joins us, the girls think they can now run and shriek because daddy will chase them down. NOT. Hubby threatens them with, "Want to go sit in the car with me? No? Then you better behave and get over here!" My shopping experience has gone down a notch because now I am hurrying to get the items on my list and get out of there. Of course, my newly potty-trained Middle pipes up, "I gotta pee!" While doing the pee pee dance. It's contagious, the pee pee dance, did you know? Now Oldest has to pee, too!

I give my list and coupon book to Youngest to keep her amused and tell Hubby to get two packages of hotdogs that are 'buy one get one free' and then run after the two girls who are by now weaving and dodging people on their way to the bathroom. I like the bathroom there, the big handicapped stall has it's own sink, so I can keep all the kids in the same stall with me and not worry some stranger is going to swipe my kid while my pants are down by my ankles. Oldest can reach the soap dispenser, but Middle can't quite reach it. I ask Oldest to help and I can already picture in my mind what is about to happen. "Oldest, be careful you don't get the soap on Middle's dress---" Too late. Middle turns around and the soap had dripped into her open mouth and now her tongue is stuck out with a gob of soap on it and her face has the cutest expression ever!!! I couldn't help myself and burst out laughing. Then Oldest and Middle started laughing, too. After washing her mouth off and then washing her hands, giggling all the while, we catch up to Hubby.

We quickly go up and down the aisles until I realize Youngest no longer has my list OR my coupon book! ACK! My coupons! Hubby searches up and down while I search the cart.. nothing. Hopefully someone picked it up and turned it in, I'll just wait until I am about to line up to pay and then I'll check. No point in wasting time going back and forth(someone did turn my coupons in!). Then while Hubby goes one way and I go another, I come back in time to see Hubby give a tongue-lashing to an old lady. I hate walking in on Hubby chewing someone out, especially a stranger. It feels so awkward.

Turns out, Middle was running towards Hubby and then stumbled and fell. Hubby caught her by the arm and picked her up, asked if she was OK. Old Lady said, "Easy, easy!" in a tone that meant she thought Hubby was being rough. Perhaps she didn't see Middle stumble and fall and thought Hubby was grabbing her by the arm for no reason. Hubby told her that Middle was fine, she is OK. Old Lady said, "I report people like you! I know people and I can report you!" That pissed off Hubby. Hubby replied, "This world be a better place if people would mind their own business, and we can start with you, right now!" This is the line I walked in on, missing what Old Lady said earlier. I saw her face look appalled at being talked to that way, then she walked off in a huff, pushing her cart along. Then every time I passed her in the next few aisles, I avoided eye contact and quickly hurried the shopping along. When Hubby told me later what she said, I was shocked! Hubby would never hurt his girls and I don't blame him for the way he talked to Old Lady.

Last week, when we were having lunch with my mom, before we dropped her off, we ate at Wendy's, one of the very few fast food places we will eat at. It was kind of busy there and many of the tables were taken around us. At the tables next to us were 3 older ladies. I am used to people staring when I am using my hands to talk in sign language. I am used to people staring when I am with 3 little girls who are making a racket about wanting their little toy with the kids' meal and I want them to eat first, then play. But I do not like when the staring becomes outright rude. One of the old ladies literally turned in her chair, propped her elbow on her table and turned to face us and just stared at us. It was getting irritating and frankly, made me uncomfortable. Then they got ready to leave and the lady bent over right in front of Oldest' face, I kid you not, less than a foot away from her face, and asked her if she was going to eat all her food and blah blah... Hubby and I gave each other the "eye" and watched her. She stood up and got back down again and then put her hand on Oldest' head. Hubby told her, "Get your hand off my kid." She quickly moved her hand away.

I don't know.. what is wrong with people now?? I never once felt compelled to touch a stranger's child, or turned in my seat to watch someone I don't know, as if they were a TV show. When it comes to my own children, I am protective of them and I don't appreciate when people think they can touch them and ask for a hug when I try to teach my children to be wary of people they don't know. That sends such a mixed message to have a stranger ask for a hug and they look at me for what to do, and I get so riled up. I tell the stranger that I don't teach my girls to hug people they don't know. I don't mind a little wave but don't cross that line and expect me to allow my children to hug you and treat you like an old friend, when for all I know, you might be a child molester. You knock down my child's defenses and get them to think that all strangers are nice and only want a hug. I know there are some genuinely nice people out there, but do me a favor, talk to ME first, not my kid. Don't touch my kid until I say it's OK.

There was a time, once, when I was in line at Wal-mart, waiting to return an item. Oldest was a baby and started to fuss, so I put a blanket over my shoulder and nursed her discreetly while standing in line. The woman in front of me actually grabbed the blanket before I had time to react and pulled the blanket down. She got an eye full of a boob and a baby sucking a nipple. "Hey!" I said, grabbing the blanket and covering Oldest back up. She told me she just wanted to see the baby. OMG!!

I don't think I am being over-protective in this day and age. But it seems like it happens to me and my kids a lot. Strangers touching my kids as they go by, or wanting a hug, or some such behavior like that. Does that kind of thing happen to you much where you are? What are your reactions?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Girls, Girls, Girls (Not THOSE Kinds of Girls!)

Before I had my girls, before I met and married Hubby, I always thought that I would end up a single mother with a little boy. The father would have no hand in raising him and I would settle in Maine, somewhere, and raise him the best I could. I was having some frustration with men at the time and had come to the conclusion that there was no one out there for me. I told my mom, once, and it nearly broke her heart to know I felt that way.

I never dreamed that I would have 3 girls of my own, and now that I do, I can't imagine my life without them! Youngest is 18 months old now and is at the stage where she is figuring out what she wants and how to get it. She can't talk yet, only says a few words like: Mama, Dada, milk... The one word she is saying a lot right now is "Uh-oh!" She will drop something-- "Uh-oh!" She finds something funny-- "Uh-oh!" She takes a bite of food-- "Uh-oh!" She looks at you-- "Uh-oh!"

She is very vocal, but being vocal doesn't get her what she is asking for, whatever that may be. She'll grunt and point towards the pantry so I know she wants something to eat. I'll list off a few things but all I get is a frustrated grunt and more insistent pointing before I finally figure out what she wants. Other times, she tugs on my shirt and pulls me to where she wants to go. I'll follow and end up in the living room, then she'll let me go and run to the TV.

Today, she saw something on the counter top in the kitchen that she wanted. She has finally figured out that she is strong enough to drag and then push the kitchen chairs to the counter, climb up and VICTORY! She got to drink out of daddy's big, over-sized, "Bubba Keg". I let her drink a little then put her down and moved both chairs back to the table. 5 minutes later, she was at it again! I couldn't resist taking a picture of her accomplishment and sharing with you!
Middle is now starting to resist her nap times. I get so flustered when I know she needs her nap, she is cranky and pouty and a little nap would transform Miss Pissy into lovely Miss Middle again. But she resists, shakes her head, pouts, and stomps her foot all in the name of "NO!" Eventually she does take a nap, usually right before dinner is put on the table. I have to poke, prod, shake her awake and then she'll announce at the table that she is too tired to eat and lay her head down on the back of her chair and go back to sleep. Argh! I carry her to bed, then in the morning she is starving for breakfast! On the potty training front, she is still without pull-ups except for bedtime and yesterday told me that she didn't need the potty anymore. She will use only the toilet and I could give the potty to Youngest.

Oldest is a sneaky little thing! She takes full advantage of my Deafness and gets into things when I am busy doing something else. While making lunch today, Oldest comes up to me with dripping wet hair, a new change of clothes and a grin that the Cheshire cat would envy. She took a shower all by herself and felt all freshy and clean. I never suspected a thing and certainly didn't hear the water rushing through the pipes. She asked me for gum one day and I said no, it was too early in the day -only 11 in the morning. Then while tucking her into bed that night, what do I find under her pillow? Several sticks of gum and a few empty gum wrappers. I'm going to have to find a new hiding place for the gum!

One of the outdoor cats caught and killed a chipmunk (poor thing). Youngest found it and I turned it into a science lesson. Everyday we go out and take a look and watch it slowly being eaten by bugs and decomposing back into the soil. We count how many kinds of bugs we see and I explain the larvae will turn into flies. You can see the skull now and most of the insides are gone and the fur is starting to fall off and blow away. Oldest takes a large hosta leaf and covers it up when we are done with our "studying". She is very ceremonial like that and likes to make a simple occasion into something much bigger.

Life without my girls would be very boring.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

My Little Bit of Heaven

This summer is going by way-y-y too fast! Already mid-July and I feel like I am running behind a speeding locomotive trying to keep up, but the train just gets farther and farther out of my grasp. We hoped to be able to go out of town for a vacation for a week or two, but at this rate and on our budget, it doesn't look like it's gonna happen. But that's OK, we are having lots of fun around here, exploring the parks and nearby towns.

Living here for just over 2 years now, we still don't know all the roads around here and going to the yard sales is a perfect way to discover where roads lead. Just the other day, we took a detour down a country road that travels somewhere behind our property and saw the most picturesque views-- Rolling hills and lush, green pastures dotted with rolls of hay. Impossibly beautiful blue skies with puffy white clouds. Fenced fields with grazing cows and horses. Lovely, white clapboard farmhouses with dirt driveways and red barns. We stopped for pictures and not a single car passed us while we drove on that country lane. We kept going and ended up on the main road about 5 miles from our house.

We truly love living out here and we take a bit of pride knowing we live where people go on vacation. We had a yard sale of our own a few weeks back, and had a steady stream of customers. One was a couple from Northern Virginia suburbs and they had a vacation house up here. You could totally tell they weren't from around here-- Flashy SUV with a shine you needed sunglasses for. She was dressed in leopard print jacket, big, styled hair and all kinds of rings and earrings. He looked beefy and fit, and was holding a puppy so it wouldn't get dirty walking on our dusty driveway. I know this because when he put puppy down earlier, he immediately picked it back up and brushed all his paws off. They were nice people, and they lingered a bit, making small talk and commenting on how friendly people were around these parts. We enjoy talking to people we meet and if I can't follow the conversation, I end up watching and observing their behavior and clothes.

During the Fall, I can't even begin to describe how lovely it is here with the changing colors of the leaves and the crisp, cool air. We get hunters from all over that come here to hunt deer and the tourist trade picks up at all the local stores. A mile down the road from us is a General store that sells everything from gas to toothpaste, bullets to donuts, haircuts to pizza and a little post office. During hunting season, it becomes a spot for all the hunters to meet, their prize tied down on the backs of trucks and 4-wheelers. Game Wardens are there to check for hunting licenses and to make sure no one takes more than the limit.

Our property runs alongside the neighbors and he asked us for permission to hunt deer on our land. The previous owners let him for over 15 years and he worried that the new owners (us) wouldn't let him hunt anymore. Our land, his land and another neighbor's land, gives him over 60 acres to hunt deer. We said he could hunt, just let us know when, so we could keep the girls in the house on those days. He kills and butchers them himself and gives us some venison as a token of his appreciation. I'm not a big fan of deer meat, never was, though my dad loves it. (He tried to fool me once and told me we were having steak for dinner. I knew after the first bite it was deer. ) We told him he didn't have to share the meat with us, but he insists, and so it sits in our freezer. I have only just decided to cook it up and serve it to the cats! Won't they have nice full bellies after a meal like that!

Movies like 'Deliverance' give West Virginia a bad name. Just like every state I have ever been to, there are poor towns and rich towns, farms and fields, cities and highways. All the people we have met while living here have been kind and friendly and I have yet to meet any inbred, shotgun totin', teeth missin', animal fornicatin' hillbilly. While there are a few homes here and there, slowly falling apart due to lack of maintenance and care, the majority of the homes here are well-kept and pretty.

I was at the food store with my Mom last week and we were standing in the aisle talking, blocking the way for an older man on a motorized cart. We didn't realize he was there (mom and I are both Deaf) and when we saw him, we quickly jumped out of the way so he could pass by. I apologized to him and his response? "That's alright, I've spent my whole life waiting on women." How could you not love a man like that? Bless his heart! Those are the kind of people I want to be around: gracious, kind and funny. Add that to the scenery here, and I would say I've found heaven.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Weekend Fun

We took Mom/Grandma home on Saturday and it was sad to see her go. I hoped to convince Hubby to let me take her home by myself so we could stop at yard sales along the way, and as I predicted, we all went together. There weren't a lot of yard sales but we did stop at a few. We purposely stopped for lunch at a place that sits next to a thrift store. After we ate, we all marched over there for some bargain hunting.

The three of us make a good team: we spread out, casing the joint-- Hubby goes to the toys, Mom goes to the dishes, and I went to the linens. Then we shifted-- electronics, furniture, clothing. We hit a nice jackpot! Mom spotted a nice baby playpen fence that was marked for only $4 and I sold one this past Spring for $45. This one was a larger one so I could easily sell it for over $50. Hubby spotted a barely used fireplace set, also $4. We had been looking for one since we put the wood stove to work this past winter and we stole the girls' toy shovel to scoop out the ashes. I also found a pair of large curtain panels, made from a heavy fabric, that I can re-purpose and use to make a cover for a rocking chair cushion. A cat that we babysat, for an Aunt, used the old cushion as a litter box. The fabric was $5. We picked up a few other items and with Mom's senior citizen discount, we paid a total of $22 for two shopping carts worth of stuff. A pretty good haul!

Yesterday, we decided to go for a drive to a nearby town where we know there is an indoor flea market. We hoped to continue our good luck in finding bargains at the thrift store to the flea market. I packed a picnic lunch and planned to stop at the local park that had a natural spring and you are allowed to fill your own containers with fresh spring water. But Hubby suggested we check out another park in the mountains instead. I am so glad he did, because what we found there was so exciting! The park has a beach!!! A large spring fed lake with a beautiful natural sand beach that was NOT very busy on a HOT Sunday afternoon! Must be a secret place! There was a lovely park with a great playground for the kids, lots of picnic tables and gazebos, cabins to rent, and a large soccer field.

Once the girls saw the beach, they wanted to go and swim, but we had to tell them that we had no swimsuits and would come back another time. Lots of pouts and foot stomping ensued. But they quickly forgot as they played on the swings and merry-go-round. On out way out of the park, we drove by the beach and there is a small fee to enter the beach area, and once again the girls, especially Oldest, wanted to go to the beach. I told her that we would come back next weekend and her reply was, "No. Let's come back tomorrow!" I told her that Daddy had to work tomorrow and counted off the days until Saturday--5 days. Then in her most pitiful voice, she asked Daddy, "Can you please not go to work tomorrow so we can go to the beach?" Any more pitiful and Daddy would have surely melted and wrapped around her little finger, blubbering, "Yes, let's go to the beach."

We had lots of fun yesterday, discovering new places and we never did go to the indoor flea market. We came home and pretended we were at the beach: spread a blanket on the ground, chairs set up close to the water so we could dip our toes in the water and when the cat came near, we laughed and pointed at the catfish in the water! It was a great day and after the girls were tucked in their beds, we ended it by watching 'Casino Royale' on DVD. It was a pretty good movie, takes some getting used to, seeing a blond James Bond, but by the end, I thought he did quite well. Looking forward to the next installment of the 007 franchise.

I must tell my Dad a belated 'Happy Birthday!!' His birthday was on Saturday and I hope he had a good day!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Grandma Is Here!

On Sunday, Hubby went East to stay the night at his parent's house. He has been looking for permanent work with better pay and benefits and had a job interview that was set for 7 in the morning. It was for a position about 45 minutes away from home, but the interview was at the headquarters-- 2 1/2 hours away. So to keep from having to wake at 3 in the morning to make the drive over and compete with rush hour traffic, he stayed in his old room at his parent's house. They live about 15 minutes away from where Hubby needed to be.

I was sad to see him go, as it is very rare that we spend a night apart, and I was partly, just a little bit, teensy-weensy envious that he would go to sleep early and not be bothered by the little ones. On the other hand, I was looking forward to having the whole bed to myself and not be groped, fondled and poked by Hubby. Ahh, I was going to have a blissful night of sleep! Not. I ended up tossing and turning, missing the feel of Hubby laying next to me, having our feet crossed together, mine on top of his, and our nightly talks before the light goes off. I turned on the light and checked the clock: 2 am! Argh! Turned off the light again and willed myself to sleep, squeezed my eyes as tight as I could, and next thing I know, Oldest is by the bed and it is morning.

When Hubby is home, he is the one that rises with the girls. He knows I am a grumpy thing when I get less than 8 hours and he lets me sleep until I wake on my own, usually around 8:30. Since he was not home, I woke up when they do, which is around 6:30 and gave the girls their morning juice and I'm sure I messed up their schedule a little, making breakfast earlier than usual. It was a good thing I was awake, Youngest had an appointment for shots that morning. Instead of rushing around getting ready to go, I was calm, cool and collected as we headed out the door 30 minutes before the appointment. But because Hubby wasn't home, I had to take all 3 girlies with me instead of leaving 2 at home with Daddy. There's always a trade-off, somewhere.

After Hubby finished his interview (he wasn't hired), he had orders to stop at a used books/movies store at one of our old haunts. We had a stack of books, music and movies to trade in and Hubby picked up some other movies and books we've been wanting. He also checked out the Home schooling books and turns out there is quite a selection. I mentioned before about wanting to home school my girls and we have decided to go ahead and do it. So now we are looking for supplies and books to use.

Hubby was also picking up my mom to bring her home with him. Yay!! Mom was coming to spend 5 days with us. I always love when she comes to visit, and the girls get excited when Grandma comes to stay. It has been a while since her last visit and have been looking forward to her coming up to stay a few days. We get to catch up and talk, and she gets to see how big her grandchildren have grown from the last time she saw them. She marvels at all the accomplishments they have achieved and the girls are forever saying, "Look at this Grandma! Come see what I did! Over here, Grandma!" They made some pictures and hung them on the wall in her bedroom. Nothing like seeing the girlies with Grandparents!

It was been a nice few days, to have Hubby home with me again ( a nod to all military families who have to spend so many days apart) and having Grandma here, too. I can rest my watching eyes for a bit knowing I have mom sitting with the girls in the living room, watching movies. When Hubby goes to work for his evening shift, I have mom to keep me company after the girls are asleep. I am looking forward to the day when mom retires from work and sells her home to come and live with us. Less than a year to go! Mom leaves on Saturday, when she has to go back to work. I'm hoping to convince Hubby to stay home with the girls, and I'll drive mom home, stopping at yard sales along the way. But chances are, we will all pile into the van and go together, inseparable, a happy family.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

What To Do When You Meet A Deaf Person

Unless I am surrounded by other Deaf people and we are using our hands to communicate in sign language, Deafness is a hidden disability. No one knows you're deaf until they try to speak with you and get no response. People can't tell you're deaf until you whip out a paper and pen and start writing to them. Unless your hearing aid is visible, they don't know you're deaf. Having a hidden disability can be both a blessing and a curse.

There have been too many times to count, where I have gone to the stores and had a sales clerk come up to me and start talking to me from behind. I don't notice them walking up to me, being busy looking at something. Then sometimes I get a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach, like something doesn't feel right. Looking up, I'm startled to see someone standing so close to me, looking a little irritated at me. I realize at the moment they must have been talking to me and I do the gesture, 'point at ears and shrug'. When the person understands I can't hear, they get all sympathetic and apologize. Most of the time, they walk away, never to return and even to the point of avoiding me. Sometimes, I'll get the occasional beginner signer that wants to practice with me-- "I know sign language!! Look--" then they proceed to finger spell very slowly, "m...y n...a...m...e i...s k...no wait, I mean p...a....t...t...y." They don't realize that they take so long to sign and I really have better things to do.

Don't get me wrong, I AM glad that they are learning sign language and I know they need to practice to keep improving and sign faster, but when I am shopping, you are intruding on my time. You have no idea if I am in a hurry and do you do that to hearing customers??

I have been to restaurants and instead of telling the waiter (or waitress) what I want, I point at the menu. It is unbelievable how many times I have gotten dirty looks and the roll of the eyes! Maybe hearing people don't realize how expressive their faces can be, but Deaf people rely on facial expressions and we can usually tell how you feel just by the look on your face, no matter what your words may be saying. There is nothing more frustrating for me to have the waiter start telling me what the special is, going on and on, all his words falling on deaf ears, even after I told him I am deaf. So I sit there and wait until his mouth stops moving and then point at the menu.

It's always a pleasant surprise to go somewhere, say a yard sale, and finding the person to be fluent in sign language. I can relax a little and sign back. If they are a hearing person, it's always curious to me where they learned sign from-- Deaf relative, co-worker, friend?

There are also people who understand that I am Deaf and make special effort, umm, too much effort. The louder voice, exaggerated mouth movements, wild hand gestures, or just talking to me like I am a 5 year old. Or how about the hearing people that, no matter what they do, you just can't understand-- long mustache covering the lips, really bad teeth so that you are distracted looking at the teeth instead of the lips, hands covering the mouth, to name a few.

When you meet a Deaf person, please know that they are normal humans just like you, they simply can't hear. If you talk and get no response, tap them on the shoulder so we don't jump when we find someone strange standing so near. Talk normally, but a little clearer than normal-- like if you usually mumble your words, slow down a little and don't use complicated words. Keep it simple. And if you are a beginner signer, ask permission first, to practice your spelling or signs on us. It might earn you some free signing tips because you were nice enough to ask.

One more thing, there are DIFFERENT levels of Deafness. Some Deaf people can talk well, some can't talk at all, and some talk a little strange, what we call 'Deaf voice'. Some Deaf people are more comfortable than others in communicating and willing to do whatever it takes to get the point across. Then you have your more subdued Deaf people who would just as soon get it over with as quick as possible. So because you meet a Deaf person that can talk well, please don't get frustrated when you meet another that can't talk at all.

We are all different, whether we are hearing or deaf, in wheelchairs or blind, but we are also human. No one is perfect. You might meet someone that makes you feel uncomfortable, maybe you could get to know them a little, understand where they are coming from and just treat them with the respect we all deserve. What goes around comes around, and some day, you might find yourself in the same spot.

Friday, July 6, 2007

"I gotta pee!"

It's been three (THREE! 3! 3! 3! ) weeks since Middle has been potty trained with no relapse! We had tried every trick in the book and then some, to get her to use the potty and stop using the training pants. We tried the passive method-- she'll use the potty when she's ready; the aggressive method-- sit! pee! now!; bribery-- I'll give you one m&m every time you pee and two m&ms when you poo, says I in a sweet voice; the chart-- a sticker for every 5 check marks; we even let her pick out new underpants, but nothing worked. She is 3 1/2 as of June and I was starting to think she would never get out of training pants. I couldn't even get her to change her pull-ups after she peed, she would sit there until they overflowed!

When I went to the stores and her pull-ups needed to be changed, I hated that the changing table in the public restroom wasn't in a private stall, but out in the open near the sinks. So every woman that walked in would see a fairly big girl lying down on the table, her arms and legs over-hanging the edges, being wiped and changed. I was getting embarrassed at some of the looks I got. You know, those "tsk-tsking" shakes of the head and there were even some sympathetic looks, like maybe I didn't know she was old enough to be using the toilet on her own.

So there I was, reading my daily dose of blogs from all my favorites and I came upon The Good Woman's blog, My Wee Scottish Blog (soon to be My Little African Blog?????) and she had a post about how she helped her little one understand how many days were left before Grandma came to visit. She had some balloons on a paper and each balloon represented a day; for every day that went by, a balloon was colored in. Now Bambi knew that if there were 2 balloons left, that meant 2 more days before Granny gets here!!

I never thought of doing something like that!! I adapted it and drew 10 balloons and made copies. I told Middle that if she started using the potty, every time she did something, to color in one of the balloons. when all 10 balloons were colored in, I would give her $1.00 and she could buy what she wanted at the Dollar Store (where everything is $1!). It worked! She started putting on her underwear and every time she felt the need to use the potty, she'd run to me, grab her crotch and do the pee-pee dance, "I gotta pee!" So I'd run with her to the bathroom, flip on the light, and she'd pee and color in a balloon!

I'd be in the middle of stirring a boiling pan of pasta, and in she'd run, "I gotta pee!" and I would have to drop everything to run to the bathroom with her. After a while, the pee-pee dance got tiring, but hey! She was using the potty! She filled in 10 balloons and we gave her $1. She barely got halfway through the 2nd page before she stopped coloring in the balloons but was still using the potty! We ended up giving her $5 to spend at Wal-mart and she picked out an identical purse to the one that Oldest picked out with her birthday money. We figured with the money we are saving from not having to buy any more pull-ups, she deserved the $5.

So here it is 3 weeks (THREE!!) later, and she is pooing and peeing in the potty. The trip East for the holiday was the first time she rode in the car without pull-ups for a long 2 1/2 hour drive. I brought extra undies, pull-ups and a change of clothes just in case. Halfway through the trip, "I gotta pee!" and a sit-down pee-pee dance started. We quickly pulled over to the nearest fast food joint and made it to the bathroom with no accident. Yay!!! Yay Middle!!

Let's hope this trick works with Youngest!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Ya'll Come Back, Now!

We headed East for the Holiday and spent the day with friends and family. It's funny how, when you move and settle in, you find a comfort zone and then when you have to leave, you're a nervous wreck!

For nearly all of Hubby's life, he lived in the Northern Virginia area, which is as close as you can get to DC without actually crossing the state line. Over the years, Northern Virginia (NoVa as locals call it) has grown and grown, the trees giving way to new parkways (they aren't kidding when they say PARKway) and empty fields giving way to McMansions and rows upon rows of townhouses. Smaller, older homes get torn down to make room for identical shopping centers and the county forces older, retired folks to move by raising property taxes to ridiculous amounts, to the point where they cannot afford it anymore. I feel for younger, just married couples that don't have the income to buy one of these homes and have to take out an 'arm and leg loan' just to afford the down payment. They have to fork over the other arm and leg to get the mortgage loan.

We lived in an apartment in NoVa the first 3 years of our relationship and then the early part of our marriage. We got tired of seeing our rent increase every year and seeing our money fly away instead of being invested in a home. We couldn't afford a house in NoVa and decided to look in the next county or two. Both of us worked for the Post office in NoVa so we didn't want to move too far. We checked out Centreville and prices were in the $250,000 range. A little too much for us. We hoped to find something in the $130 range. We checked out Leesburg, Woodbridge, Chantilly, Manassas... but everything was either too expensive or right on a major traffic jam.

We went to see a local realtor for help in finding a house. It was in a large office building, a nice suite of offices, nice lobby, and a nice, perky, older secretary... We were told to wait until Mr. Realtor was ready for us. About 10 minutes later, we were ushered into his office. Introductions were made, small talk about the weather and where we were from, and then, THE question: "What's your price range? " He asked us.

"We were hoping to find a house with at least an acre of land for $130." we said.

"HA ha ha ha ha ha ha ha......" he laughed! I kid you not! He LAUGHED! When he saw we weren't laughing with him, he calmed down, straightened his tie, and told us that would be impossible. Hubby was royally pissed and said we weren't going to be doing business with him. We got up and left, and Hubby tells me later that he heard Mr. Realtor start laughing again after we left the office.

We decided to look even further for a home. We went into another county and sure enough, there were plenty of homes in the price range we were looking for. The trade-off was driving 40 minutes one way to work. We thought that was a fair trade and we found our little house after a couple of weeks of house-hunting. It was sort of in the country, with the town being a mile away, but you had the feeling you were in the middle of farm land. We loved living there and the commute to work wasn't bad at all. But other people started discovering our town and traffic increased, more homes were popping up, prices and property taxes were getting higher, more stores and restaurants were moving in and pretty soon, our little town wasn't so little anymore.

Although I couldn't hear it, there used to be only the sound of crickets in the evenings with the occasional moos from the cows in the field behind us, the twittering of birds and the neigh of the neighbor's horse. There was a small airfield nearby and every weekend we were entertained with small planes flying above our house, many were ultra-lights and experimental small planes. But then came the constant pounding of carpenters and the drilling of big earth movers boring through hard rock to make room for more and more new homes. Beautiful fields were being raped of lovely 100 year old trees and corn fields plowed down. Hubby tossed and turned at night with the new sounds of a growing town. It was time to move.

Finding this house in the mountains was a godsend. It's peaceful and quiet here. There's no place for a developer to come in and plant 100 McMansions anywhere because the mountains and valleys don't allow it to happen. You get used to the slower way of life and not having a thousand cars crowding around you on the roads. Going back to NoVa turns Hubby's knuckles white as he grips the steering wheel, the muscles in his neck and back tense up and even I start looking for something to hold onto when drivers cut too close in front of us. We start thinking about making a U-turn and heading back home. We say stuff like, "You couldn't pay me to move back here!" I believe we are official country bumpkins now. We'll start saying stuff like, "Ya'll come back now, ya hear!" And instead of sounding like a couple of city-folk country-wannabes, it'll sound like it came from a couple of bona-fide country hillbillies! Ohhh-wee!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Dragging My Feet

I am, oh, so very tired. *yawn* On the night Mr. Skunk so thoughtfully left behind his lovely scent, I was on the Video Phone until 3 in the morning. My friend and I had a lot of catching up to do and keeping in touch is hard to do with 6 kids between the two of us and the rest of what goes on in our lives. She is going through a rough time and needed someone to lend an ear and listen to her pour her heart out. I am happy to say that I will be seeing her on Wednesday for the holiday, but know that we wont be able to escape for private girl talk.

Anyway, going to bed at 3 am and waking up as usual the next day left me dragging my feet. I find it impossible to fall asleep until I know Hubby is home safe and sound, which is usually by midnight. I wait around until he gets home, and we have a little bit of quality time together, talking about his day at work and my day with the girls, so I don't get to bed until 1:30 am.

Saturday, we needed to flea-bomb the house. The girls and I, the cats too, are being eaten alive by fleas that multiply faster than you can say, "oh my giddy aunt!" Hubby with his thick skin, doesn't seem to be bothered by the fleas, but I've had enough! So we bought 6 cans of Flea Fogger, set them up and went for a nice morning of yard sale-ing. You need to stay away for at least 4 hours to let the flea killing chemicals work and then air out the house for a bit. Now comes the fun part-- cleaning the house from top to bottom. Apparently they changed the ingredients from the last time we bombed the house (seems like we do it once a year) and we got headaches almost right after we went into the house. We kept the girls outside, playing. After opening all the windows, turning on all the fans and discarding the empty cans, we sat outside to wait, our heads pounding.

Finally it felt safe enough to enter the house again and I set about to clean all the rooms, change all the bedding, mop, wipe down surfaces, wash the windows, vacuum... Oh! And give the 2 indoor cats a flea bath! Not fun! I am amazed I managed to bathe 2 cats and avoid their razor sharp claws this time. The two wet cats are giving me a wide berth every time I come near and have only just started coming close to me again, provided I have cat food in my hands. I worked room by room, starting with the girls' rooms first and working my way to the living room, dining room and then the kitchen. By the time I was done, it was 10 at night and I still hadn't caught up on my sleep from the 3 am phone call. I was pooped! I should add that Hubby cleaned the sun room and the office and the kids helped, too. I tried to keep the help from the kids to a minimum because I didn't want them to get any residue from the chemicals on them and knowing kids, dirty hands end up on faces and in mouths. So I had Hubby keep the kids amused as much as possible so I could clean alone quicker than I can with 3 little helpers.

Sunday was more cleaning, what I didn't finish the day before-- washing the large mound of bedding and clothing, the towels from washing the cats and the kids. My dryer picks this weekend to act up and take f o r e v e r to dry a load of laundry. I can't find my clothes line so I am hanging all the sheets and blankets on the line we have set up in the basement. Not the same as hanging them outside, but it does the job.

Waking up this morning, knowing Hubby has to go in early today and work a 12 hour shift to cover for people on vacation this week, was absolutely difficult. I am so, so, so tired and I made the mistake of lying down on the couch this afternoon while the girls were watching a movie. Next thing I know, Oldest is waking me up telling me the movie is over and she's hungry. I drag myself to the kitchen to find 3 peaches butchered and left for dead on the counter! When I ask, Oldest points to Middle. Middle confesses she hacked them up with the knife trying to get the pit out but only succeeded in smushing the peaches all over the counter. A fourth peach had teeth marks all over but not a single bite was taken out of it. So much for peach cobbler for dinner. That'll teach me to fall asleep and let the girls roam free.

On the bright side, I am caught up on the laundry, the house is spotless (give it another day) and I plan to go to bed early tonight. But here's the kicker.. we still have fleas!! AGHHH! I think I shall take up a flea circus and tour the country.