Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve

I got invited to a fancy New Year's Eve party in D.C., but at $40 per person, I'd rather stay in my warm and cozy home with my family. I certainly don't want to drive 3 hours to D.C. and then deal with traffic and potential drunk drivers and get home all red-eyed and exhausted from driving in the wee hours of the morning.

My plan for spending New Year's eve is to just be home, maybe watch a movie with Andrew, kiss each other one last time for 2010 and then another kiss welcoming 2011. Sounds good to me! Unfortunately, Mr. Opossum had his own ideas for celebrating the New Year::


He killed and feasted on a chicken, right there in the nest box at the bottom of the coop! Andrew went out to shut the coop up for the night and came in to report to me that 2 chickens were out; one under the van and another heading into the woods. So I grab my sweater and flashlight and go out to check, thinking it's just a matter of herding 2 chickens caught in the dark back into the coop. Imagine my surprise when I shine the light inside and catch two reflecting eyes shining back at me!

I run back into the house to fetch Andrew and he fetches his .22, but I was afraid the bang would scare the chickens out of the coop, which is the last thing I wanted. I suggested the nearest tool handy, which was the rake, and Andrew hit the opossum a few times, but he wouldn't budge and give up his meal. All it did was turn around and huddle itself in the corner. Andrew went back in and got his BB handgun and shot it a few times, but it still wouldn't budge. Banged on the outside corner where the opossum was, and other than jumping with every bang, it remained there.

I ended up getting the hammer and pulling out the board that covers that corner and Andrew took the rake and poked it and it shot out the hole I made and went under the coop. Not exactly where I wanted it to go, but the coop is closed up and there's no way for the opossum to get back in now. I removed the dead hen and examined it, and he must have been in there awhile, a good part of the breast meat was eaten and its' stomach was exposed with all the ingested food spilled out. Poor hen, I feel bad and hope her death was quick.

I still have 2 chickens on the loose, but it's a mild night, thankfully (the temps got into the 60s today!!) and I'll find out in the morning if they are still alive. They ran into the woods and from past experience, it's damn near impossible to find a brown chicken amongst brown leaves and trees and branches. The warm weather melted what little snow we had, so I feel their chances of surviving the night are good. If they hunker down and keep quiet, they'll do alright.

In the morning, I'll inspect under the coop and if it's all clear, I'll cover up that hole. What a way to start the new year. I think it's time for Andrew to teach me to use the .22, so if I ever needed to, I can do it myself. I got a little squeamish thinking about killing that opossum, but now that he's had a taste of fresh chicken, I have no doubt it'll come back. I'll have to get over that squeamishness and kill it the next time it comes around.

I think I'll have to make that into my New Year's Resolution: Learn to shoot a rifle and learn to shoot it well.
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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

An Early Christmas Gift

When it comes to exchanging gifts between Andrew and I, it's not always easy. When we want something, usually, we get it (money permitting). Under the tree for Andrew was a shirt he saw me buy, a matching father-and-son scarf from fleece that I made and... that's it. For me was a new flashlight that I needed so I would stop swiping Andrew's and leaving it everywhere but where he left it.
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The biggest gift to each other though, was one we, or rather he, got earlier this month:
He got a vasectomy.
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That's right, snip-snip!
It's something we talked about and he volunteered to do it, rather than me go through major surgery to get my tubes tied. Much easier for a man to get snipped and he can go home an hour after the procedure is done. It helps that he had a role model-- his own father had a vasectomy.
When we found out that the Veterans' health insurance covered vasectomies, he made an appointment as soon as he could get one.
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Andrew wasn't nervous about the procedure at all. They had a pre-op appointment to explain how it works, but we had already researched it on our own and talked to other men that had it done. A close friend of ours suggested that Andrew "drain" himself before the appointment because that's what he did and he didn't even have to ice it afterwards. The thinking behind that is that there was no build-up or back-up of fluids to cause any pain.
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Well, the week before the appointment, we had nightly fun a little more often than usual, a sort of farewell slash emptying of the fluids. He got slightly nervous in the waiting area, but who wouldn't when you're naked and cold and dressed only in a flimsy hospital gown? They asked him to shave himself prior to the appointment and gave him antiseptic soap to wash with that morning before leaving for the hospital.
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They numbed him up and quickly worked one side, then the other, and before he knew it, they were done. The doctor told him that he still needed to use protection and that he wasn't sterile until he says he is sterile. We'll find out in January, six weeks after the procedure, if the vasectomy was successful.
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He walked out of the hospital looking nothing like a man that just had a vasectomy. I expected him to walk slowly and possibly hunched over in pain, but he looked just fine. I drove him home and he laid down for a bit when we got home, but he didn't ice it and was in no pain. I had to laugh when I saw they put a bandage on either side where the cuts were made. Good thing he was shaved!
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Surprisingly, the next night he was ready to go! I had doubts, I thought it would be too painful for him, but who am I to deny a night of fun for each other? There was no problem that night in his performance and hasn't been any problems since.
Hopefully, in January, the doctor will declare Andrew sterile and we will no longer have to get these anymore. Good riddance!
Being sterile means no more of these, either. I'm fine with that. I love the children we have and have no desire for more.

He's happy,


I'm happy!
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Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Chaos

With the build-up to Christmas, the gifts, the baking, the guests.. it's almost a letdown when it's all over. I love this time of year, I love the excuse to bake cookies and pies and wrap presents. I am grateful this year that we finally wised up and shopped year-round for gifts so that we didn't go broke at the last minute. I kept track of what the kids 'wished for' during the year, keeping an eye out for sales, coupons, rebates and even the yard sales and thrift shops. Evelyn writing her Christmas list back in August was a big help, too, as I was able to get things she wanted that I otherwise would not have known about.

It was a little easier to shop for Evelyn, 8, than it was for the other younger ones. She has developed interests and clearly likes doing crafts and reading books. The younger ones are still into doll-playing and pretend, and Peter just likes to throw stuff. In her Christmas list, she asked for fabric and sewing stuff, and one of my blogging friends sent me some lovely fabric for Evelyn. I was so excited to be able to surprise Evelyn with fabric and her very own vintage sewing box, along with spools of thread, new scissors and pins, embroidery floss and a note asking her to take care of the box and its' contents.


She was so thrilled with her sewing stuff and it was a delight to see her jaw drop!

My Aunt also gave her a kid-size sewing machine, which I had no idea she was going to give! Talk about happy!! The sewing box and machine both sit on her dresser and she is impatiently waiting for me to show her how to use the new sewing machine.





Back in May, my sister and her family came up to visit and she gave me some presents to give to the girls come Christmas. I must have forgotten what she told me was in them, because all along I thought they were dresses or some outfits. The size of the box seemed about right for one of those clothing boxes. When I handed them out, imagine the squeals of joy when they ripped off the wrapping paper to find brand new Barbies!!! They were so happy with their new dolls! Thanks Aunt Teena!!
You've made 3 little girls very happy!

During the summer, I would find Barbies at the yard sales and I'd pick out the best looking ones with the nicest outfits, and in their Christmas stockings, the girls each received a Barbie. So they got 2 Barbies this Christmas!




Peter, at 2, is at the point where he just likes to throw stuff or bop the girls on the head with something. He gets into everything and likes to put stuff into holes or poke things into places he isn't supposed to. The couch you see behind him-- he put a hole under one of the cushions and drops stuff in there. One night after the kids went to bed, I was looking for the remote, and I discovered the hole. I took a flashlight and peeked in and found quite a bit of stuff in there-- so that's where the forks were disappearing to! There's the stuffed birdies I made for the tree, marbles, blocks, cereal, popcorn, sippy cup lids, and yes, the remote. We had to cut a slit in the bottom of the couch to get all the stuff out and now we regularly check inside the couch for missing items. I really need to sew a patch on it and put an end to his squirreling away of stuff.

Grandma got him a new basketball hoop and some legos, since the girls won't share their own legos with him. I found a big box of wooden tracks and trains at the thrift store and a train table at a yard sale. We picked out a few tracks and trains and set it up on the train table and put it under the tree for Peter. I think he's happy with it, but it's still early yet, he hasn't really had a chance to play with the trains.

It snowed on Christmas day, so Grandma and Grandaddy didn't come. It's just as well, they got a lot of presents from us, Grandma, and Aunt and Uncle and I think they were overwhelmed as it was. Peter was having small tantrums when he was stopped from ripping wrapping paper off any box he could get his hands on. Sylvia and Gretchen wanted to just play with their dolls-- the Barbies and their Jessie dolls and they didn't want to open any more gifts. Grandma and Grandaddy will come next week and this way, they can play with what they have now and open a few more later.

We are starting new rules with their new toys, most of the old toys are in the basement and we are trying to teach them to take better care of their toys. I am tired of stepping on toys or having just cleaned a room only to turn around and have it look like a toy box vomited five minutes later. We are confiscating toys when we find them where they aren't supposed to be, and constantly asking them where this or that is, until it sinks into their heads that they are to keep track of where their toys are at all times. Peter got into Sylvia's new markers and scattered them everywhere and lost the caps to a few. As a result of that, all the markers and coloring books are now put up. Gretchen got a 'Go Fish' card game, and last night I found the cards all over the floor, behind the dresser and some fell behind the baseboard. That's gone, too. I have several Barbie shoes and outfits in the "gone box", as well.

It must be working, being mean mama and mean daddy. This morning, crayons were left on the table and the train tracks and trains left on the floor. I called to the girls to clean it up just as I carried Peter to the changing table. Before I even finished cleaning him up, the girls ran back to say they were done! Did they pick up all the crayons? "yes." Pick up all the trains and tracks? "yes." Then Gretchen said something that showed me she really is listening to us: "Many hands make the work go fast!" I was so pleased to hear her say that!

Now we can relax; no more pressure to cook or bake or clean house for guests; enjoy our new gifts and movies; eat the pies, fudges and cookies; we can just be together and be happy.

Hope your Holidays were merry and jolly and filled with laughter and love. xoxo
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Friday, December 17, 2010

White Christmas!

So, unless it warms up all of a sudden, it looks like we'll have a white Christmas after all. We got about 2 inches of snow on Thursday, much to the delight of the kids, and poor mama, I had to run around all over the house looking for the other matching mitten, scarves, snow pants, and it's-around-here-somewhere-this-is-where-I-saw-it-last-#$%!!##-snowboots! ahem. Sorry, four children breathing down my neck hollering for snow clothing can wear a mama out!

After I finally gathered together all the snow clothing, dressed them warmly, sent three out of four children on their way, I hoped for at least 20 minutes of knitting time, but it was not to be. Ten minutes out the door, Sylvia was done. Then Gretchen and Evelyn followed. Time for hot chocolate and candy canes. A call to Daddy at the mall to please buy Peter some gloves so he doesn't stand by the window and wail and flail and cry in frustration at being stuck in the house instead of outside shoving snow in his mouth. Anymore wailing and flailing and I might be the one wailing and flailing!

It's been cold here, I'm not complaining, it's been pretty mild up to now, and we managed to get away with not having a fire for most of November. Our stockpile of firewood is not as big as I'd like it, so any day not having a fire is another day saved. We may get some more snow, wait and see, I hope just a little more, not so much to keep family away for Christmas day. I have a big turkey in the freezer for Christmas dinner, and I hope I'll be able to cook it for all our guests and not just us. I may get a back-up ham just in case.

Winter Solstice is almost here. I've been talking for years about wanting to celebrate this day with the kids, and I am going to do it this year. A walk in the woods would be nice, making something to hang in the trees for the birds to eat and welcoming Winter with some small treat for us. I'd love to hear your ideas if any of you celebrate the Winter Solstice.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Last of Summer 2010



These 3 tomatoes represent the very last of summer's harvest. This is the first time we have eaten fresh tomatoes from my garden all the way into December! Before the first hard frost hit, back in late October, I harvested nearly all the green tomatoes. I left behind quite a few on the vine, and was going to get the rest the next day, but the next morning found them all mushy and limp under Jack Frosts' touch. Oh well, I still had the first harvest, which filled 2 milk crates-- nearly 8 gallons of green tomatoes!
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Our sun room was an add-on by previous owners, and we think there's no insulation, plus the windows are those slat-type windows, which all equals to either a very hot room in the summer, or a very cold room in the winter. Makes it perfect for storing green tomatoes and letting them ripen slowly. The tomatoes that got moldy or mushy went to the chickens and we salvaged some by cutting off the bad parts. I have one lonely tomato left and I am amazed that I've been able to eat fresh this late in the year.
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Andrew and I have long stopped buying taste-less tomatoes at the stores, preferring to wait until either the farm stands have them in the Spring, or from our garden. After the last tomato gets eaten, we'll be relying on all the tomatoes I canned over the summer-- more than 60 quarts worth! We are eating well.
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All in all, I'd say 2010 was a very good year for tomatoes! There are a few changes I want to make for 2011's garden, but I'll probably plant the same amount, tie them up the same way, use the soaker hoses again, and use the same old carpet for weed blocking. I won't be planting the dark purple cherry tomatoes, or the yellow and red striped ones, but then again, I didn't intentionally buy those and I think they were mix-ups from the farm store where I bought the plants. The purple cherry tomatoes were tasty, but the skin was tough and I was pretty much the only one eating them. I ended up mixing them in with the canned tomatoes for extra flavor. The yellow and red striped ones were pretty, but not much in the flavor department and they got mushy fast.
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As every gardener says, I am looking forward to the next garden and am already dreaming of trying new vegetables and new ideas for old planting habits. I hoped to have a winter garden this year, but time got away from me. Maybe next year will be the year!
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My goals for 2011 garden are:
  • 2nd compost built
  • strawberry patch
  • asparagus patch
  • grapes
  • apple trees
  • peach tree
  • trim and train blackberry vines
  • try onions (again)
  • try broccoli (again)
  • try cabbage (sigh, again)
  • small greenhouse made from recycled materials
  • chicken-proof netting around rhubarb
  • herb garden

I think it's all do-able, not too costly to implement most of these, and I got some of the materials needed for some of the projects already. As soon as the holidays are over, the January birthdays have been celebrated, it's time to get started on 2011's garden!

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Final Advent Calendar Post

I finished those last ornaments for the Advent Calendar and I promised I'd show you, so here they are. (sorry for the poor picture, I still haven't quite gotten the hang of my new camera) I planned to make a Santa face, with a hat and beard, but as I put it together, I just didn't 'feel' it, so I just made the hat. Besides, what do you think of when you see a red hat like that? Why Santa, of course! The last few ornaments, I had to really push myself to finish them. When I first started this, I would complete 3 or 4 a night, and by the end, I barely finished one. I have some ideas for other little ornaments, but I have all I need now, and maybe next year I'll make another set and switch them out every other year. Who knows.

We all really enjoy this one and from where I usually sit at the dining table, I get a nice view of it and you can often catch me sitting there, admiring it. I'm very pleased with it. We are all looking forward to hanging up the very last ornament, the star, to see the completed tree. I'll be sad to pack it up after the holidays, but just think how good it will be to pull it out again next Christmas!
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Friday, December 10, 2010

Sickies

We have major sickies here. I can't remember the last time all of us have been this sick at the same time. Feels like the flu, but without the constant hot and cold. We're on our 2nd box of tissues in 3 days and my stock of cough medicines is quickly getting depleted.

I just did a major cleaning, trying to kill any germy-germs. Mopped the floors with a solution of water, bleach and lemon oil. Wiped down the walls, door knobs, fridge, pantry doors, anywhere the kids touch. Changed all the sheets and blankets (5 beds-- that's a lot of linens!). I dressed up the kids in warm clothes and coats, and took them for a walk in the woods-- fresh air did them good.

Appetites are at a low point here, and it's hard to cook a meal when I'm not hungry either, so there's mostly grazing, if anyone is hungry. I'll be making homemade chicken soup for dinner tonight and hopefully it helps some of us feel better.

I'll be back when the sickies are gone. Stay well and have a good weekend.
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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I Hate When I'm Right

The day after Thanksgiving, we put up the tree. Since Peter is two this year, we put up the big one (when there is a toddler in the house that does not really understand "no", we use the little tree, put up high, which in our house, seems to be every other year). We've had this tree awhile, though I can't remember if we got it when we lived in the apartment over 10 years ago, or at the first house.


Anyway, while I was putting the tree together, I had a feeling that it was going to be the last time I put it up. The first night, we didn't put up any ornaments, just the lights, since it was getting late and I wanted the kids in bed on time. The next day, while I ran errands, Evelyn couldn't wait for me to get home and went ahead and started putting up ornaments. When I got home with her brother and sisters, they got all excited and raced to put up the rest of the ornaments. I was a little uneasy about it, but they checked each ornament with me as to where to put it: top, middle, or bottom, or in other words: breakable, durable, no worries.

The tree looked great when they were done. They were so proud of themselves, and we really enjoyed seeing ornaments we hadn't seen in 2 years (little tree has its' own ornaments).

We all went to bed and when I woke up in the morning, Andrew informed me that the tree got knocked over, ornaments broke and the tree broke. Oh no. I hate when my gut feeling proves right. I inspected the damage, and sure enough, the tree cannot be fixed. After some thinking, I got two cinder blocks, a galvanized tub and rigged the tree to stand.

It works! I had to take everything off the tree; the ornaments, the lights, everything. Then all the branches. Then slipped the cinder block over the "stem" and another cinder block to keep it steady. The tub actually makes it look nice, rustic-looking. After putting the branches back on, re-stringing the lights, and only putting up ornaments that won't break if it falls again, it looks pretty good. Looks like I'll be checking the clearance sales after Christmas for a new tree.

Any ideas what to do with this old one? I have an idea to take some of the branches and see if I can twist them into a wreath, but I won't need many branches for that. I'd like to try and recycle as much of it as I can, so it doesn't end up wasting away in the landfills.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cleaning Up!

Thanks for all the Advent Calendar love! The kids really enjoy putting one ornament up a day, and I've got 3 more to make. I'll show you the last set after I'm done.
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Sitting in my foyer for the past year were boxes of clothes that the kids had outgrown. I hoped to sell them at the consignment shop, but that never happened. Later, I hoped to sell them at a yard sale, but with Andrew's crazy work schedule, that never happened, either. So the clothes sat there. The kids would play over there and get into the boxes and pull some of the clothes out, or some toys got stashed and forgotten there, or more things were added, but not boxed. It was blocking the front door, which we never use, but still, it was a fire hazard, and frankly, an eyesore.

I decided that donating all the clothing to the thrift store would do more good than having it sitting in the foyer, so I tackled it, finally! It was one of those days where the stars aligned and the 2 older girls went outside with daddy to hang up 'No Trespassing' and 'No Hunting' signs, and the younger two kids were happy to watch movies in the living room within sight of me. I went through the 12 or so boxes we had in the foyer, making sure nothing we wanted to keep ended up in there, and then added another 8 boxes of clothing from around the house-- my closet, the kids' closets, the basement.

Right away, Andrew and I loaded up the van so there'd be no putting it off. 20 boxes of clothes went in there!! Whoa. I didn't realize there were so many clothes around the house. There's still a few more boxes I need to go through downstairs, but I ran out of room in the van, not to mention I ran out of steam, too.

Amazing how much bigger the foyer looks without all the boxes cluttering it up! It felt good getting rid of all the clothing. We took it to the local Goodwill in town and within the next few days, I spotted some of my things hanging in the racks. I might have been able to make a little money off them had I sold them myself, but honestly, I just don't have the time to do it anymore, and this way, we are helping people and getting a tax donation out of it. I'm now going through the toys, making way for newer ones the kids are getting for Christmas, whittling down what we have into something more manageable. Peter doesn't play with the baby toys anymore, so those are going, too.

I hope to take at least another 20 boxes of stuff, not all toys, but stuff we've collected and no longer use or doesn't sell well on ebay. Andrew and I really want to get rid of the clutter and in order to teach the kids to clean up their messes, we need to be an example, too.

That stars might align again tomorrow, Andrew is going to be working the woodpile, so maybe the kids will want to be outside with him? Wait and see...

Have a happy weekend! :o)
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Finshed: Advent Calendar!

I was determined to finish this today so I can hang it on the wall December 1st and I did! *jumping up and down* Yay! I worked on the buttons this afternoon, using vintage white and clear ones from my stash, then after the kids went to bed, I worked on sewing the backing and the tabs. I'll change out the dowel later, the one I'm using is super thin, but it'll do for now.

I love it! I've never made anything like this and I really had fun!

I have 7 more little ornaments to make; 2 more stockings and 5 random ones. The main thing is that the calendar is done and on the wall, I can finish the ornaments by the end of the week, probably tomorrow night or Thursday. I have a few started, but I ran out of floss in certain colors, so I had to make a stop at the fabric store for more thread.

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I didn't take a picture of it, but the tabs and backing fabric is made from a green and white checked flannel receiving blanket from one of the girls when she was a baby. I can't remember which girl, but I've had it awhile, and I just thought it would be special using it for the back. It works perfectly and adds to the charm of it.

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A special 'Thanks' to Jill for coming up with the sew-along! I never would have done this or it might have been started and then gone to where the rest of my unfinished projects go. I'm ready for the next project-- let's go!

:o)


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crunch Time

I've been working like a mad woman after putting the kids to bed tonight, trying to get my Advent Calendar finished. I broke out the new sewing machine and so far so good. It's a little stiff, but at least it works properly!

My work so far:: Pockets sewed on, fireplace sewed on, tree sewed on! Done, done and done! Tomorrow, I'll sew the buttons on and then sew a backing and the tabs for hanging. I have 7 more little ornaments to sew, but that can wait, the priority is the calendar itself.
I thought the tree looked so plain by itself, and I really wanted to add a fireplace to hang the stockings from. With four kids, I wanted each to have their own stocking and it didn't look right, to me, to have four hanging on the tree. I reallllllly like how the fireplace turned out! I can't wait to get this finished and hanging on the wall December 1st!
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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Eating and Shopping

Hello!! Are you are still in turkey-induced resting mode, or are you coming down from a Black Friday shopping high? Or perhaps a little of both? :o)

We had a lovely Thanksgiving. My Aunt and Uncle didn't come down because Aunt got sick and didn't want to make the rest of us sick. We missed them but the huge turkey she gave us was already thawing and it needed to be cooked! 22 pounds of lovely turkey went in the oven and between the seven of us, we didn't even finish half of a breast. Talk about leftovers!! the other breast went into the freezer for future meals, and then I picked over the rest of the turkey for pot pies this week.

Andrew and I make such a great team in the kitchen-- he helped me peel potatoes from our garden and we made sure to cook extra potatoes for breakfast later this week, and also made sure there would be leftover mashed potatoes for a shepard's pie as well. When we chopped carrots; he peeled, I chopped; we cooked extra for the pot pies. Then we danced around the turkey as he made gravy from the drippings and I sliced up the meat for our meal. We couldn't have planned it better, there were hardly any leftovers except for what we wanted and we also didn't over stuff ourselves and become miserable for the rest of the night.

I confess, I love Black Friday. I grew up going through the sales papers on Thanksgiving with my mom and sister, hunting for the best bargains and waking early on Friday to hit the stores. I dragged Andrew with me the first year we lived together and it was his first time shopping on Black Friday-- his mom never participated in that event. Andrew went with me a couple times after that, then quit when one year, we waited in line for hours and people were rude and loud and he told me that he had better things to do with his time than to deal with crazy people! I stopped for awhile, too, since we had everything we needed at the time, and then we had no money to shop either.

Ironically, that first time I took Andrew with me to shop on Black Friday, it was for a sewing machine. It was the only thing I wanted that day, so we got up at 4:30 am and made it to the store by 5 am when the doors opened. I got my sewing machine and all was good. This year, that sewing machine finally called it quits on me, and I need a new sewing machine. Lo and behold, Walmart has a sewing machine for $50 and the sale starts at midnight.

I like the midnight start time. That means I don't have to wake up the kids and drag 'em with me and then worry about them the whole time I'm there, making sure they're safe with me and they don't get lost in the crowds. We did this last year, because Andrew had to work, and it was a nightmare making sure the kids were safe, dealing with the pushy people, long lines, and hungry/tired/cranky kids who just want to go back to bed. Midnight shopping means I can leave the kids asleep in their beds, leave the husband to keep our bed warm, and Mom and I are free to shop.

I got my sewing machine! We got there around 11 pm and I'm glad we did, they did something different this year and let people shop for those sale items, but not pay until after 12:01 am for the sale prices. I made a beeline for the sewing machine and already the pallet was half-gone by then. We picked up a few more things and we were done by 12:15 am. Lucky us, someone directed us to the jewelry counter to pay so we bypassed the long lines and we were out the door by 12:30 am. It was a good night and I'm glad the crowds weren't so bad. Maybe they were all still in a good mood from good eatin'.

Now I can finish my advent calendar and sew the tree and pockets on the backing . We are in the middle of putting up the tree and decorations, and then after the kids go to bed, I'll start sewing with my new machine! It's not a fancy machine, but then, that first sewing machine I bought on Black Friday 13 years ago wasn't either and it lasted me this long. Here's to another 13 years or more with this one.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Advent Calendar

I've wanted to make an Advent Calendar since forever. I see so many great handmade examples out there and I hate the cheap ones you see at the stores, but I just never made the time to make one. Then Jill over at Homemade By Jill started an Advent Sew-Along! She made it sound easy:: do a little at a time and hopefully, by December 1st, you'll have completed it! There are lots of other people sewing along with her and they are sharing ideas, links, patterns for the little ornaments and more!

I've decided this is the year to finally make my own and I've really enjoyed it so far. I haven't sewed the backing yet, but I've cut out the little pockets and sewed the numbers on them and I have all my little felt pieces cut out for the ornaments and all I have to do is assemble them and sew them together. My sewing machine is out of commission, but I hope to remedy that soon, so I can make the backing and sew the pockets and the tree on before December 1st.

Here are the ornaments I've finished so far:: snowman, dove, ornament, candy cane, gingerbread man, peppermint, light bulbs, candy ribbon, 4 presents (one for each kid). Hard to tell in the picture, but they are tiny ornaments! The peppermint is close to actual size!

I really like the ribbon candy one. I wanted to make some of my own ornaments that mean something to us... I grew up always having ribbon candy for Christmas, so I had to make one. I made it up, but it's pretty simple and I love how it turned out.

Here are the ones I still need to finish. They're all cut out, so it's just a matter of assembling them. I have 4 stockings for each kid, and each one will have their first initial on it; you can see the 'P' on one for Peter. I let the girls pick out the colors for their stockings. I made up the poinsettia one, I love poinsettias, but we never get one because we have cats and apparently they're poisonous to cats. I love my cats more, so I enjoy poinsettias from afar. I did french knots in the center and it was my first time doing french knots! I'm looking forward to finishing that one and seeing how it turns out.
Almost all the Advent calendars I've seen have 24 days to count down to Christmas, a few have 25. I'm partial to the 25, so I'm making mine with 25 days. The very last day, Christmas Day, will be the star to hang on the tree. I can't wait to finish this and hang it up and watch the kids take out an ornament every day.
My mom says it'll be a family heirloom when I finish it. I never thought about it that way, but it does appeal to me-- taking it out every year and watching the kids count down the days to Christmas. I imagine that when they are grown and out on their own, maybe they'll ask for it and they can take turns who gets to keep it for Christmas that year. Maybe I'll end up making one for each child to use for their own children? Who knows... it's too far off to think about now, I'll just enjoy the one I'm making.
I'll post more pictures as I go, and hopefully I get this done before December begins!
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Year of the Tooth

What a crazy week! I'm so glad the weekend is here and I am looking forward to the whirlwind of making Thanksgiving dinner.

I think people make such a big deal about cooking the turkey and all the side dishes that go with it. I enjoy cooking and could easily spend my days in the kitchen whipping up all kinds of dishes, if only someone would clean up behind me and wash all the dishes when I am done. If you plan it right, make the desserts and do a little prep-work on some of the dishes the day before, once you put the turkey in the oven on the actual day, the rest of the day is pretty easy. But maybe it's me, I don't go for the super complicated dishes or go all out and decorate the table really fancy. Nothing changes in my house when it comes to Thanksgiving. I don't bring out the fancy dishes-- don't have any. I don't decorate with any tablecloths or leaves or any such stuff. I just cook the food, serve the food, eat the food.

Anyway, poor Andrew had some teeth that were bothering him for some time now. His wisdom tooth finally dropped and came in at an angle, pressing down on the next molar. The pain came and went over a few months, but the last couple of weeks have been really bad. Bad enough to turn Andrew into an ogre sometimes. He went to the Veteran's Hospital to get it checked out, but they kept giving him the run-around because he has high blood pressure. Dental would send him to the ER to get cleared by the doctor there, but the doctor would be too busy to see him one day or send him elsewhere another day. After nearly 2 weeks of back and forth, meanwhile taking antibiotics for the infection and meds for the pain, he gave up and called a local dentist in town. The local dentist agreed, he needed clearance for his high blood pressure, but once he got it, he'd pull the teeth ASAP.

Lickety-split, Andrew was able to get ahold of his primary doc at the Veteran's hospital and get the go-ahead for the dentist. The very next day, the dentist pulled both teeth. Turns out, the tooth that the wisdom tooth was pressing on-- the bone had deteriorated and there was nothing for the tooth to hold on to. It came out easily and then that space made it easier for the dentist to grab hold of the wisdom tooth and pop that out, too.

Amazing! What a difference in Andrew with those two teeth out. A little bit of soreness afterwards, but he's feeling pretty good. I have my husband back! Bye-bye Ogre! And, surprise, the local dentist was cheaper than the Veteran's dentist would have been. So, it all worked out, I guess. I'm just glad he is no longer in pain and he can go on with his life again.

It's the year of the tooth for us-- between the kids losing their baby teeth left and right-- Evelyn lost one of her canines the other day-- Andrew losing two, Mom breaking a front tooth, and my uncle breaking his tooth eating popcorn I made (oops!), that's a lot of teeth! Here's hoping we'll all have our teeth when we're old and gray and not gumming it! :o)
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

ThanksLiving

I try to take things in stride.
I try not to worry about stuff too much.
I try to relax and let things sliiiide off my back.
I try to not let the little things bug me.
I try hard at trying.

Sometimes I try not to cry over the stuff that I'm trying not to worry about.

I'm counting my blessings.
I have to, or else I'd focus on the stuff that I'm trying not to let bug me.
I have a good life. I do. I do, I do, I do!

I have a wonderful and loving husband.
He loves me. He truly does!
He's a good kisser and hugger and ...ahem... moving on!
He listens when I talk, eats the food I cook, provides the muscle when I need it.
He goes out and works so he can bring home a paycheck for us.
He is a wonderful father to our children.
I love watching him play with the kids, chasing them and playing hide and seek.
I have 4 beautiful children.
They are great kids.
They are turning out to be great siblings to each other.
I love how Evelyn helps me with the younger ones and I really appreciate that.
I love their individual personalities and I don't try to make one like the other.
I love my chickens.
I love their feathery butts and the way they walk and the way they run.
I love their combs and wattles and beaks.
I appreciate the gifts they leave in the coop to feed my family.
I enjoy our life here, in the middle of all this beauty.
The views, the mountains, the trees-- there is nothing prettier.
I learn something new everyday; today I learned my uncle once worked at a turkey farm.
I am grateful for the roof over our heads, the food in our pantry and the clothes in our drawers.
I am grateful our animal companions like to be near us.
I see the gift stash and I know that Christmas will be good this year.
Thanks to Secret Santas (you know who you are) that have helped make this possible.
Thanks to good friends and family for all you've done for us.
Thanks to coupons that help me shop for the family and lower our grocery bill.
Now if I could just find coupons to help lower the gas bill...


I'm feeling better now.
It'll be easier to try and not worry after reading this.
I agree with the local church sign down the road:
ThanksLiving should be all year, not just one day.
I am thankful that I wake up in the mornings.
I am thankful I get to share another day with my family.
I am thankful I have someone to love and who loves me back.
I am thankful.
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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Missing!

It's a fact of life that hungry things target chickens, including humans. Last year, before I had finished the coop, some animal killed a few of my chickens, which hurried along the finishing of the coop. Ever since, I've tried to be diligent about shutting the coop door when it gets dark to keep my chickens safe. I hate the daylight savings time change, as it gets dark so early now and usually I am in the kitchen cooking right when it gets dark, so the coop door is open for a little while before I get out there.

Last week, all of the little ones weren't in the coop. There are 9 little ones and only 4 were in the coop! Sometimes, they huddle on the outside of the coop, but none were there. Oh dear. It was one of those nights where I didn't get to the coop right when it got dark and it was around 8 at night by the time I checked on them. That means it had been dark a little more than 2 hours by then.

I searched in all the usual places the little chickens hang out, but I couldn't find any of them. I searched further, walked all around the house and finally spotted one huddled by the stoop at the far end of the apartment. Where were the other 4? After more hunting, I found another one squeezed in between an overturned trashcan and the house. Another one on top of the window air conditioner unit, where I never would have looked if I wasn't looking into the office window "spying" on Andrew. I found another one with the help of Maisie sniffing around the back of the coop. There was a chicken trying to squeeze under the coop. I was still missing one more and I looked high and low for it before I finally gave up. I hoped I would see it outside of the coop in the morning, but there was none there.

As far as I can figure, something must have gone in the coop and spooked the chickens. The older ones hang out in the nest boxes up high, forcing the young hens to the low roost bar and the lower nest boxes. That's the only explanation for why they were scattered like they were, one here, one there, when they are almost always huddled together in a tight group. It's been a week now since #9 has been gone, and I assume it's been eaten.

I'm making sure I am out there right at dusk now, when the chickens start heading into the coop for the night. It's getting dark before dinner, so it's a little easier for me to be out there. I hope it was a young rooster that got taken. I hope whatever got it has a nice full belly, but it better not come back. Might be time for me to take Andrew up on those shooting lessons.
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Waste Not, Want Not

*Edited to add recipe for scratch Pumpkin pie*

I never understood that expression when I was a kid: Waste not, want not. I never asked what it meant and no one ever explained. Now that I am older and a little bit wiser, I understand now and I am trying to teach my children what it means.

At the Library on Oct 30, the kids got to paint little pumpkins. They've been sitting on the shelf, kind of forgotten, since Halloween is over and the decorations are put away. Seemed like such a waste of perfectly good pumpkins not to do anything with them. Hm, why not? I told the girls I was going to turn their pumpkins into pies!

After washing off the paint (I happened to note it was non-toxic, washable paint), I chopped them in half, gutted them, tossed the seeds to the chickens (we don't like pumpkin seeds), and popped the pumpkins in the oven. Evelyn helped puree the pumpkin and from 3 little ones came 12 cups of puree! That equals 8 pies! Yum! I made 2 pies tonight for dinner tomorrow and the kids can't wait to eat their Halloween pumpkins.

While I was preparing the pumpkins to go in the oven, I explained to the girls about not letting food go to waste. Here were some fine pumpkins and if we did not eat them, and instead let them rot, we'd have no pie. Later, when we are hungry for pie, we would remember how we let those pumpkins go to waste and kick ourselves for not using them when we had them. If you don't waste it now, you won't want it later= Waste not, want not.

I can't say for sure if the girls understand what the expression means, but they did say they would much rather eat pie than toss out their pumpkins. Whether or not they understand it, one thing is for sure-- Dessert will be savored tomorrow! :o)
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At the request of my sister, here's how to cook and prepare pumpkin for making pie.

Cut pumpkin in half. Remove stem, blossom end, seeds and stringy parts. Bake in a covered pan or covered with foil for about 1-hour at 350 until fork tender. Drain off liquid and cut into smaller pieces and process in a blender or food processor until pureed. You can freeze puree in zippy bags. I always make 2 pumpkin pies at a time, so I freeze in 3-cup portions for 2 pies. If you use pumpkin puree in other recipes, feel free to freeze in smaller increments.

My recipe for 2 pumpkin pies:

2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp ground cloves
3 cups pumpkin puree
3 1/3 cups evaporated milk
4 eggs


Mix all ingredients until smooth. Pour evenly into 2 pie crusts and bake 15 minutes at 450* then reduce heat to 325* and bake another 45 minutes until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Eat and enjoy!! :o)

P.S. We ate pumpkin pie for dinner and it was deeeeeeeelicious!! We had my Aunt and Uncle here for dinner and polished off one pie. Still have another pie for Saturday's dinner! yum!
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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Big Van, Little Van

With 4 children, my Mom, my Husband and I, we can fill up our little van pretty quickly. It gets tight in there sometimes, and we have to pass up going places just because there is no more room in the van. We have a Mazda MPV-- we bought it when I was pregnant with Evelyn. Used to drive a Jeep Cherokee and I loved that thing-- but after babysitting 2 toddlers and putting their car seats in the jeep, I realized that it was going to be tight, so we decided to trade it in for a van.

Anyone familiar with the Mazda MPV knows that it's a mini mini-van. It has served us well for 2 kids, even 3 kids, but with 4 kids and their things, it gets stuffed. And now that Mom comes along with us, we are shoving 3 kids in the 3rd row and Peter gets to stay in his car seat next to Grandma. Had I known back in 2001 when we bought the van that we would have 4 kids and Mom would move in with us, we probably would have bought something bigger.

We've been searching for a larger van for a while now, weighing pros and cons of going larger: pros- more room; cons- more gas; versus keeping our old van: pros- paid for; cons- costly engine repairs. We go back and forth but the biggest deciding factor is money. Or lack of it, anyway. Don't have money to fix the van, don't have money to buy a van. ~sigh~

We could swing car payments if we really tightened the belts and with my extreme coupon shopping habits, we are left with a little more money at the end of every month than before. It's a question of: Do we really want to do that?

Another question: How big do we go? We've been looking at Ford E-150 passenger vans. Boy those are hard to come across in the used car searches. After talking with people, we found that people hold on to these vans, which makes sense to me-- these big vans are bought with a set purpose in mind, like large families or sports teams or church groups and those purposes don't usually change for a good long time.

After one slipped through our fingers last summer, when another E-150 popped up on carmax, we called up right away to check it out. Sunday, we went to take a look at it, give it a test drive and talk business with the Man. I don't know, maybe it's me, but I hate being in places where salespeople circle like vultures and I'm afraid to say anything in front of them for fear they'll pounce on what I say and twist it to make it sound right. I'll tell you though, carmax is efficient. Their system is take the van for a test drive and while you're gone, they'll appraise your old van, so by the time we got back, everything was good to go.

They had a playroom for the kids (nice!), so Mom stayed behind with the kids and Andrew and I took the new van for a spin. He drove first and because the salesman was in the van with us, I felt a little bit stifled-- I didn't feel free to fiddle around with the dash or turn around and "practice" yelling at the imaginary kids back there. My turn to drive and I don't like how there's a rubber strip-thingy right next to the tiny accelerator and every time I stepped on the gas to go, my foot got caught on the rubber strip. Made me uncomfortable. I know it's also a matter of adjusting to a new car and deleting old habits from the old van, but still... it didn't feel safe to me.

Another thing about the E-150, it was very high-- that would make it harder for my Mom to get in and out of. I had her get in it before we took it out for a test drive and I worried she was going to fall. And for all the extra space we'd get in the van, it was tight in the front. Hardly any floor space for the front seat passenger and I'm not a small girl-- I'm tall with long legs and I like to be able to stretch them out, I wouldn't be able to do that in that van. The seat was back as far as it would go and there just wasn't any space for my feet.

After we got back, the salesman had the results of the appraisal for our old van and I was very disappointed at the amount. Not even close to what I expected and at that price, trade-in value would barely make a dent in the purchase price of the new van. It was easy to say "no", but we should have asked the guy to leave the room and give us a few moments to talk, because we had some tense moments on the way home before we figured out what was bothering each other. We drove a long way to see the van, and had high hopes we would be driving a new (to us) van home. Plus, the kids were really vocal in their disappointment and that just rubbed more salt in the wound.

I'm not sorry we didn't get the van. We are still on the look-out for another van, but maybe this time, a full size mini-van instead of the big, super-sized vans. It won't be a whole lot of extra space, but compared to our little van, it'll be more comfortable and won't be so hard on the wallet with the cost of gas compared to a larger full-sized van. We can't afford to keep pouring money into the old van if it won't stay fixed and I'd like to try and sell it before it gets any older and loses more value.

The one good thing about the appraisal by carmax, was they told us our van is in good condition, good engine and good interior (with 4 kids?!? that's a surprise!), so we should be able to get a nice amount for it, just not what carmax offered. Their offer was so low because the van had been in an accident and the frame was cracked and repaired. Carmax will not sell cars with major repairs like that, since it compromises their integrity to sell "like-new cars". So, we'll take the van elsewhere to sell, and then find another van to purchase. That's the plan anyway.

Any recommendations for vans?? I'd love to hear from people who have 4 kids and what they drive. We're looking at the Honda Odyssey as the best bet so far.
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Friday, November 5, 2010

Oh Brother!

What is it with kids and poop?

I thought that having 3 girls might exempt me from hearing potty and poopy jokes, but sadly, it's not the case. Every now and then they get on a tangent and spend hours (hours!) giggling and laughing about butts and boobies and poop.

It's funny for about 5 minutes, and then I spend the next few hours (hours!) rolling my eyes at their jokes and drawings.

They'll draw pictures of cartoon characters they see in the movies and undress them in their pictures-- like Astro Boy in his underwear (giggle) or Woody sitting on the toilet (roaring laughter).

They'll laugh when the ketchup bottle goes "phbbbt!" and scold it for farting.

They pretend their dolls are pooping or farting and then wave naked doll butts in the air and chase each other around the house, screaming: " Ahhh, naked butt-butts! Naked butt-butts!"

Sometimes they strip their own clothing and run around naked, laughing and squealing in delight. I'm sure now with the colder weather that will happen less often.

Ah, Winter, the naked butt-butt deterrent!
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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

VOTE!

We voted, did you?
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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

What a weekend!! Here are the kids in their costumes:

Evelyn is a Hula Girl; Gretchen as a Renaissance Princess;

Sylvia is Super Girl; Peter as Frankenstein.

I got lucky when Sylvia said she wanted to wear Gretchen's Super Girl costume I made last year. One less costume to make. It was cold here, so she wore a red sweatshirt underneath when we went out.




I've had this costume for awhile-- got it for Evelyn when she was 4 and I had to hem about 6 inches then. I'm so glad I didn't cut it and only sewed it up. They play dress-up with this a lot, along with some of the other play clothes we have.


I scored some vintage crowns at a yard sale, and she was going to wear this one with her hair pulled up, but at the last minute, she decided she didn't like her hair up and wanted it down, so she switched to a heart crown.

They are great crowns-- made from metal with rhinestones, unlike the cheapo plastic ones they sell now. I found 3 of them and got them all for $1!



Evelyn as a Hula Girl. She made the lei herself from cut out construction paper flowers and beads. She worked one night on this and then said it was going to be her costume for Halloween. I had no idea she wanted to be a Hula Girl. Originally, I was going to make a "grass" skirt out of strips of fabric, but then I saw this dress in the rag pile. It's a size 4, way too small for Evelyn and it had some stains on it, which was why it was in the rag pile. I cannibalized it, cut off the top part, added elastic in the back and fleece all around for fringe (also for covering up her boobies as the top barely covered anything). The dress part was a faux wrap-around dress, so that was easy to take apart and sew the sides up, add elastic to the waist and ta-da! a skirt!



Then I took some fleece and made a little fringe anklet for her, since that's what Hula Girls wear!


My sewing machine decided to crap out on me in the middle of sewing the fleece on the top, so a lot of this was done by hand-cranking the needle. The grabber part of the sewing machine isn't working anymore, so I had to manually pull the fabric through. An easy costume to make, but made difficult with the stupid sewing machine.



Peter's Renaissance Faire costume I made last month, when I thought we would go to the Faire. It's a Robin Hood costume, and I was going to make the hat to go with it, but never got around to it. I used a pair of his pants and a shirt for the basic pattern and pretty much winged the v-neck opening. Pretty good, if I may say so.



I spotted this Frankenstein mask in the dollar bin at Target, and it was too cute to resist. I knew it would go great with the Robin Hood outfit. It was hard enough trying to get a picture of Peter in this, and he barely wore it when we went trick-or-treating. Oh well. It'll go in the dress-up pile for the kids to play with.



The mall was a madhouse! I couldn't believe how many people were there this year! Holy cow! 2 years ago was fun with the girls and Peter in the stroller, and lines moved fairly quickly and e completed the circuit in about 45 minutes. This year, ugh. Andrew and I are not big fans of crowds and though I have a bit more patience than Andrew, this was definitely trying. It doesn't help when people keep cutting in front of you and it took more than 45 minutes in line just to get 8 stores. By then, Peter was an angry squirmy thing trying to get out of our arms and we don't dare let him go because surely he'll get lost among all the costumed kids. I'm sorry, but I walked off with Peter in my arms and Andrew and the kids followed.


After a quick talk with Andrew, we explained to the kids that the mall was just too crowded for us to handle and if they were alright with it, we'd just buy them some candy instead. They seemed fine about it so we went out to eat then stopped at the store for candy. When we got home, we had a little trick-or-treating at home, with Grandma, Daddy and I in separate rooms and they got to knock and yell "Trick or Treat!".


Saturday morning, we went to the Library for pumpkin painting and I found out a church not too far from us was hosting a Trunk-or-Treat. We decided to take the kids there to make up for the mall and what fun that was! It was small-- maybe 15 cars there, but it was so nice. They decorated their cars, and dressed up in costumes and some of the treats weren't just candy-- they got boxes of crayons, christian-themed coloring books, pencils, stickers and tattoos, those popular rubber band bracelets and to top it off, hot chocolate with whipped cream! After we got home, we let the kids have another round of in-house trick-or-treating to wrap up the Halloween festivities.


On the way home was the most gorgeous sunset I've seen in awhile. Pretty pinks and purples. I wanted to stop and take a picture, and by the time we stopped, it started to fade a little, but still pretty nonetheless. Of course we stopped at the cemetery just down the road from us for this! A fitting location for ending the day!

Happy Halloween!

*boo!*

Friday, October 29, 2010

That Was Quick

Well, that was fast. Gretchen went from single tooth gap to...
taken 10/14/10
...double tooth gap in less than 2 weeks!

taken 10/26/10
We have Peter to thank for that. They were scuffling over who gets to sit in the recliner and Peter's foot somehow ended up in her mouth and bumped her tooth loose. Blood everywhere, which made me think it was something horrible-- like a split lip. After cleaning off the blood, there was her tooth, hanging by a little piece of skin. Plucked it off and ta-daa!!
Bad tooth fairy forgot to put money under the pillow (again!) and after a quick call to 1-800-Tooth-Fairy, she found $2 under her pillow after breakfast.
***

We're going trick or treating at the mall tonight. I thought it was on Saturday and planned to work on their costumes today, then I checked online and found out it was tonight! Ack! After a quick scramble, I made Evelyn's costume last night. Sylvia is wearing Gretchen's super girl costume from last year, Peter is wearing the costume I made for the renaissance festival that we never did go to, and Gretchen is wearing a renaissance princess costume that I bought for Evelyn when she was 4. Thank goodness for not buying cheap-o costumes that rip the first time they get used. I had to hem the princess costume 4 years ago, when Evelyn wore it, and now, 4 years later, after I let down the hem, it fits 6-almost-7-Gretchen perfectly!
(pictures coming next post!)




Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kid's Workshop

Did you know that Lowe's hosts workshops for kids? Home Depot does, too. I knew about it, but never had the chance to go-- always something coming up to prevent us from going, you know, the usual family of 6 happenings. I happened to read somewhere that Lowe's was having a bat workshop for the kids and since we are big lovers of all things Halloween and a bat would fit right in, I signed the girls up. Andrew had to work that day, but I was determined to go anyway, making sure my Mom would come along and help with Peter.

They had a great time!! They got free aprons and protective eye gear, and a patch after they were done building their bats to sew on the aprons. It was difficult at first when Peter was between my legs and grabbing stuff from the kits, and then Mom buckled Peter into a cart and wheeled him away screaming. Once out of sight of me, he calmed down and Mom cleverly took him to the halloween/christmas displays to make him happy. Meanwhile, I was able to better focus on helping the girls and I realized I had "helped" them hammer on all the bat wings backwards! Oops! So I had to undo my mistake and then correct them. Would have been done sooner if not for that, but we were there about an hour.

We'll definitely go again, the next workshop is periscopes!! I loved those as a kid!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fall Fun

What is it about piles of leaves that kids find so irresistible?

Flinging leaves in the air and burrowing underneath?

I like walking on leaves, feeling the crunch-crunch and I love the smell of leaves.
Oh! Those lovely smells of Fall-- leaves and fireplaces!


But I never cared for rolling around in the leaves. If I did, it was at the encouragement of others and it was forced enthusiasm. I hated the little bits of leaves getting into my clothes and hair, and who knows what kind of bugs are lurking around in there.


And our leaves? With cats, dogs and chickens?
Oh, it's bath night for sure after this!!


But they're happy, and that's what matters.
:o)
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Monday, October 25, 2010

About Time!

Gretchen has been nursing this loose tooth for weeks. She would show everyone how loose it is, wiggle it with her tongue, but then the minute I try to get close and pull it, she backs away and clamps her mouth down tight. It was practically hanging by a thread by the time I pulled it out!

We tried to bribe her with tooth fairy money, or put a little scare into her by saying she might swallow it while she ate, but she was stubborn about her tooth. She'll decide to let me pull it and then just as I get my fingers on it and get ready to pull, she'll grab my hands and keep me from pulling it.
Then finally-- she let me pull it and it popped out easily. Little bit of blood and a whole lot of cheer! A phone call to the tooth fairy that night and in the morning she got $2 for her front tooth! The two front teeth have higher tooth fairy rates than the other ones that only get $1.
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Grandma and Grandaddy came over to visit the next day and what do ya know-- the tooth fairy left $5 for her over there!! Apparently, the tooth fairy got her routes mixed up. So $7 total for her front tooth-- not bad! Gretchen cleaned up! All on her own, she put $6 in her piggy bank and kept out $1 for herself, "for the yard sales," she said.
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The other front tooth is wiggly now, and I'm pretty sure I could pull it out, but she probably won't let me until mid-November or something. In the meantime, she'll let me wiggle it and run off before I grab it! I love that girl! :o)
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Friday, October 22, 2010

To Clean, Or Not To Clean

I am not the neatest person in the world. Four children make it harder to keep things clean as it seems like stuff is constantly shifting, like sand grains blowing away from sand dunes, rising and lowering with the wind. I have a counter by the stove that can never be cleared away, try as I might, and is always piled with incoming mail/newspapers/library books. When I need to use three burners on the stove, I have to reorganize the pile on the counter and more than once, paper has gotten singed (thank goodness it's an electric stove and not a gas stove or else it would be 'whoosh!' and not singe)

I do my best at keeping the house clutter free. I beat back the rising tide of laundry only to be drowned again in a couple of days. The dishes pile up quickly and I hate doing dishes, especially ones I only just washed 10 minutes ago. Sweeping is a constant as is wiping up spills, drips and messes. Books are always being pulled out to be read and not always put back right away. I feel like I am always picking something up-- spilled puzzle pieces, dumped game pieces (thanks, Peter), over-turned apple box scattering apples in the sunroom, tipped over clothespins... And this was just in the morning.

For sure, a white-gloved finger would be very dusty after swiping along the door frame and window trim. For sure, I wouldn't want to eat off the living room floor, knowing who and what has been traipsing all around, leaving behind goodness knows what, but the dishes and forks are clean. Beds are not always made, though Mama's is. Towels are not always hung neatly, but they are clean. There's finger prints of paint under the light switch in the bathroom, but the fingers are now clean. For sure, it's a lived in house.

I don't want to be constantly cleaning in order to maintain a spotless house. Yes, I envy those perfect-looking rooms you see in the pages of magazines, but I know it's a lie. They've been cleaned and buffed and spit-shined by a multitude of people then photographed in perfect lighting to bring out the best features of the couch/floor/rug. Even bloggers cheat when they photograph rooms for show and tell and messes get cropped out or the one room is kept clean while the rest of the house is messy. Then there are the exceptions to the rule, whose homes really are neat and tidy and nary a wrinkle in the bedspread. They probably have no kids and no pets, or maybe they're OCD, or maybe, and I say this with a little pang of jealousy, they're one of those people that clean when they're nervous or anxious or excited. When I'm nervous or anxious or excited, I eat.

I've tried it once, to be always on top of messes, put things in their place, sort mail before it piles up, clean spills before they get dried and sticky, wash dishes as soon as they hit the sink, do laundry before someone runs out of underwear, take out the trash before it smells, sweep up paper scraps before they slip under the hutch, wipe up paint before they dry onto the tablecloth... It was exhausting and I wasn't happy. I had no time to enjoy life because I followed it around with with a broom and dustpan, focused only on the messes it left behind. I missed out on enjoying my meal because I fretted about the dirty dishes. I paid no mind to the lovely pictures my children made because I only saw the paint spills and paper scraps. That's no way to live.

I accept the messes in my life. I beat back the clutter and every now and then, clutter wins. I accept that 4 children can be messy, really really messy, like poop running down their legs messy, but I love them, messes and all. As long as I can still reach in the middle of the pile on the counter by the stove and pull out the exact paper I'm looking for, then the clutter is under control. If I can see that my floor is clean, maybe not eat-off-the-floor-clean (who does that anyway??), and I can lay down on the floor and wrestle with the kids without getting up looking like I've been tarred and feathered, I'm good. Life is messy. I can embrace the messy.

Does it mean I never get frustrated? Do I resign myself and my house to pig-pen status? No, I still get hissy fits about the messes. I yell at the kids for making a mess of the just-folded pile of clothes on my bed, waiting to be put away. I get upset when the floor I just mopped now has chicken poop tracks from someone who forgot to take their shoes off before coming in the house. I growl in exasperation when I pick up yet another book or movie off the floor. I yowl in pain when I step on another jack/lego block/barbie shoe and holler for the kids to come and pick up their toys.

But I pick my battles. As long as the kitchen, bathrooms and living room are clean, and the doors to the bedrooms can be shut, I'm happy. When company comes over and it takes me less than 30 minutes to give the house a quick clean-up before they get here, I'm happy. When we go out for the day and I come back in the house, I sniff the air, and if it smells good and not like the litter box/dog/poopy diapers, I'm happy.

Someday, when I can put something on the table and it's still there an hour later; when I can buy yogurt and it's not gone within 5 minutes of putting it in the fridge; when I can leave the toothpaste on the counter and not find it squeezed out in the sink; when I can wash the windows and not find nose smudges immediately after; when a clean piece of paper doesn't get scribbled on and stays in the printer paper tray; when I can fold clothes, walk away and they stay folded; when I can leave a glass half full of tea, it will still be there 10 minutes later, I'll know the kids have gone and moved away. I'll miss them, won't miss the messes.
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Good Day for All

It's been a real pleasant day for all of us. I needed to run into the big town for some banking, and since Mom needed to do some banking, too, we took the kids along. Andrew was at work this morning, so it was just us.

Usually, in the van, Peter starts to fuss and protest at being in the car seat, but today, he went right to sleep. The girls all brought little activities to do in the van, so it was quiet from them, too. After stops at the banks, I needed to stop into the drugstore. This particular chain gives me trouble in my hometown when I break out the coupons and do my extreme coupon shopping. I shop there in spurts, inspired by a good sale, then swear off going back after a failed trip, only to repeat a couple months later. They almost never have what I need, the store is messy with stock in bins along the aisles that need to be shelved, the diagonal arrangement of their shelves is confusing even years later, staff argue with me about my coupons and the total I need to pay never matches what I figured beforehand. Andrew has even asked me why I keep going there when I leave so frustrated and pissed. I can only think that when I have read from other websites that people love shopping there and when they tell their success stories, I get a little frustrated-- why can't I figure this place out?? I have CVS figured out, why not here??

I decided to give the drugstore (yet) another chance only because they had certain cold medicines on sale and 3 out of 4 kids are sick. This time, I'd try the one in big town, hoping for better results. Just walking in the door of the drugstore and I could already see the difference! Their store was so neat and the shelves were not arranged in that weird diagonal way like the one I usually go to. Sale items were clearly marked and not sold out (gasp!) and I was able to find everything on my list without any trouble. Even the cashier was ready for me, spotting the coupons I had in my hand and asking if I was doing separate transactions (I was). Clearly, this was a cashier used to coupons. Finally, a pleasant transaction without one hiccup and I walked out feeling pretty good and not one ounce of frustration.

I bought $73 worth of stuff and paid only $1.98. Keep in mind, drugstores are overpriced to begin with, and I would normally never shop there unless there was a sale, and every single item I bought was on sale. Combined with coupons, it all makes for a really good deal. I bought mostly pharmacy items-- several cold and cough medicines for children and adults, cough drops, lip balms, and excedrin. Non-pharmacy was 4 bottles of body washes. My medicine cabinet is good to go for the next few months, barring any major health issues. ~knock on wood~ Anyway, I'll definitely go back to this drugstore and stay away from the one that gives me a headache.

After that, we had lunch at taco bell. I had coupons for free drinks, so lunch was pretty cheap for 6 people. There was a nice old guy with his wife handing out tootsie pops to the kids, and they gave mine 2 each. The kids were pretty happy about the lollipops. Then while getting the food, the guys in the cook area gave each of the kids free cinnamon twists! What a day for them! They ate quietly and even Peter seemed to be on his best behavior, instead of climbing over the partition between booths. He must not be feeling 100%.

It doesn't take much to make me happy, and it certainly is nice when things go smoothly and unexpected surprises pop up. I was in such a good mood that even when the 'check engine' light came on in the van on the way home, it didn't dampen my spirits. Hopefully it's just the sensor, it's given us problems before.

Andrew had a good day, too. He got a card at his regular spot at the mall. The boss recently let a co-worker go, so he'll be getting more hours until a replacement is hired. He got a little raise, and with the extra hours, it'll add up.

I'll end the day with 'Good Night' and hopefully I'll have some sweet dreams. :o)
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Monday, October 18, 2010

Peter

Let me tell you something about my boy, Peter. He is the cutest, sweetest, most lovable little boy! He is also the most hard-headed, stubborn, and mischievous little guy! Of all my children, he is the one that keeps me on my toes. If he had been first, I'm pretty sure he'd be an only child! Then again, he was the sweetest baby and I got pregnant with #2 before #1 turned a year old, so maybe not.

~in the display tub andrew uses for his work~

He can give the most wonderful hugs, his little arms stretch around my neck and he squeezes as hard as he can. When he wants to give a kiss, he puckers like a little fish with his cheeks sunk in. He'll grab my hand and put it on his back when he wants me to pat him and he'll hold onto my legs when he isn't too sure of the chickens outside. On the other hand, when he wants something and knows he isn't going to get it, he screams and falls to the floor "dead", his version of a tantrum (I much prefer this over one of those screaming and hitting the floor tantrums). As soon as I put him down at the store, he takes off like a rocket and I must drop what I am doing to chase him down. I've tried to stay and see if he'll come back, but he does not, and my heart cannot take the stress of where he would end up if I didn't get him. He won't stay in the cart and I end up having to carry him because it's far easier to do that than drag him by his hand, since he decides he doesn't want to stay close and if he cannot run, he lets himself get as heavy as a sack of potatoes and I must drag him. I really like going to the grocery store when I can leave Peter at home with Andrew.


Even at home, we must constantly keep an eye on him. Our backyard is plenty big for running free, with swings in the trees, chickens to chase, the pole barn for playing house, but his idea of fun is to run down the driveway to the road down below. The minute he gets out of sight, the first place we check is the driveway and sure enough, there he is, his little legs carrying him as fast as he can go. Good thing Andrew and I can run faster than he can and we have been lucky to grab him before he even gets close to the road. He is the most amazing climber for a two-year old. I suspect it has a lot to do with his lack of fear and the consequences of falling.

He will scamper up the cars whenever he gets the chance, proud as can be when he gets to the top and stands, and I'm pretty sure if he had a flag, it would be staked to the roof of the van! I am grateful for the carseat, it is the one place I know he cannot escape and I can let out a breath of relief when he is buckled in and safe. The kid cart at Target is wonderful, since he cannot get out of that one, but he certainly knows how to express his displeasure at being stuck in there while his sisters get to walk free. I get a lot of sympathy looks from other customers when he screams and kicks in protest and I'm sure more than a few wonder what kind of mother am I that he screams so. If he doesn't calm down in a reasonable amount of time, I carry him, but usually, he quiets and is content to sit and watch the scenery go by.

He has broken the most dishes of all the kids, spilled the most liquids, gets into the biggest messes and then when scolded, gets the saddest little blue eyes, and he signs 'sorry' and gives a hug. Then he turns around and scampers off. I can relax a little bit when we are at home, I know which room he can usually be found in and I am not so uptight or the house is not so spotless than I don't mind when he gets into some things-- like when he gets into the pots and pans or when he dumps the toy box onto the floor. When we go to someone else's house, I can never fully relax, always keeping an eye on him: where'd he go? what is he getting into?

He is on the verge of talking, he can say a few words quite clearly-- book, cat, dog, egg, off, on, eat, shoe. Frankly, I can't wait for him to talk. He may end up being a chatterbox and that's just fine with me! It would be better than the screech of happiness or the exact same screech for anger, the same screech for frustration and the screech for delight. It especially grates on me when we are in the car and he is seated right behind my hearing aid and it amplifies his screeching and I think the girls are teasing him making him screech with anger, but when I look back, he's laughing. I don't turn off my hearing aid, though I am tempted, because I cannot bear to think there was an emergency and I purposely ignored it. Yes, talking would most definitely be better than the screeching.

Peter is a character, one that surprises me and delights me and drives me nutty. He gives me chase when he has something he isn't supposed to have, like a knife or the printer ink, takes a bite from an apple, puts it back and takes a bite from another apple until at least 10 apples have little bites taken from them. When I unlock the pantry, the first thing he points to is the candy jar, when I unlock the utility closet, the first thing he grabs is the big broom and off he goes, until he gets caught in the doorway by the handle of the broom, just like one of those old Tom & Jerry cartoons.

I never imagined I would have a son, and now that I have him, I love him dearly, but excuse me while I go and rescue Percy the kitten from his loving but choking arms as if he is saying: "I wanna hug 'im and squeeze 'im and eat 'im all up!" I know what you mean kid, I want to do the same thing to you: I wanna hug ya and squeeze ya and eat ya all up!
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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rocky and The Girls

I must admit, I never imagined I would enjoy chickens as much as I do. Except in books and on TV, I've never seen a chicken and my only encounter with real chickens has been on my plate. After reading multiple accounts of fellow bloggers having chickens, I started having chicken envy. I had the land and the space, I live in the country and in an area with no restrictions on chickens, so why not? Andrew has made it clear that the chickens are strictly my "project", but he does help me out with them and shuts the coop door at night when he is home.
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I have been a chicken owner for a year and a half now, and there's no looking back. I thoroughly enjoy the chickens. I like watching them scratch through the yard, laugh at the way they run and flap their wings, enjoy the egg hunts when there are not as many eggs as there should be in the nest boxes, and this year, I got to see one of my hens raise her own chicks! I dream of having other breeds for a rainbow of chickens, but for now, I'm happy with what I have: Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, Speckled Sussex, and New Hampshire Reds (though I have a hard time telling the Reds apart).


The lucky rooster: Rocky. He's man enough to do his job with his women, but nice enough he doesn't peck the humans. He's the one that's been a favorite with me and I intend on keeping him around for a good long time.
It's been so nice to see the Buffs and the Speckled Sussexs out of the coop again. They rarely came out when there were all those roosters, as they got jumped and gang-banged almost as soon as they took a step out of the coop, poor girls. I know animal life is different, but obviously they didn't like it if they cooped themselves up in the coop! They roam freely now, boss around the younger Red hens and come running when I call. Their life has definitely improved now that my freezer is full of chicken!

The good mama and her brood. I recently gave her and her babies freedom out of the pen and watched them closely. I worried Mama might take her babies back to her nest and I had no idea where it was. I needn't have worried. She took her babies on a tour all around the house and then stayed around the pen for most of the day, before retiring back into the cage at dark. Yesterday, I saw all the chicks hanging out in the coop, Mama was nowhere to be seen. I wondered if she tucked them in there and slipped away for a Mama-break? I wondered if I could get them to return to the coop at night and dismantle the pen? I took a chance and placed the cage inside the coop while the babies were in there. Mama came back for her babies later and they roamed the yard, and at night, to my delight, they nested in one of the nest boxes in the coop! I'll wait a couple of days before I dismantle the pen, but I think it's good to go.

The babies, right before their release from the pen. They are one month old now, and just about lost all their fluff, only a little left on their heads. I'm hopeful that they'll survive the winter and when the temps drop, I'll turn on the heat lamp in the coop. Come Spring, I'll cull the young roosters so I don't get a repeat of what happened this summer-- cocky roosters, in more ways than one!
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Since Mama is a Red, and all the roosters were Reds, the babies are all Reds, too. Don't ask me which-- Rhode Island or New Hampshire. The differences between the two reds are small, and I probably would be able to tell better if I had two hens, one of each breed. As it is, all the Red hens look exactly alike and all the roosters looked exactly alike. Since I know for a fact that Rocky is a Rhode Island Red, I assume all the roosters were Rhodes, too. As for the hens, they could all be Rhodes or all New Hampshires. I don't really care either way, they are beautiful chickens and I wanted a different breed from the Buffs and the Sussexs so I could tell the younger hens from the older ones. I'm thinking of leg bands for the babies, so I can tell them apart from the older Red hens.
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If I order more hens next year (doubtful) or in later years, I plan to get a different breed, partly to diversify, also to be able to tell apart the older hens from the younger hens. I've seen some beautiful black hens, the name escapes me at the moment, and I'd like to try the traditional white hens, the kind my mom and dad grew up around.

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