Saturday, June 30, 2007


Dana from Life Turned Upside Down awarded me this 'Rockin' Girl Blogger' badge!! I am so honored!! She writes great and funny stuff, so head over there and check it out! (It took me a while to figure out how to post the badge-- Thanks Good Woman!!) Thanks, Dana, for the cool nomination!

Writing this blog has turned into a fun outlet and I never expected to get so excited about hearing from you and your comments and riding the ego wave has done wonders for me! I have come to look forward to reading what you have to say and I also enjoy reading your stuff, too! I might not always leave a comment, but part of my daily routine is to read all the blogs in my 'Check 'em Out' list. I love hearing your own tales of your daily lives or your walks down memory lane. I get excited for you when good things happen and I feel sad when you share your woes. I laugh out loud and get all giddy when I find someone that feels the exact same way I do-- I'm not the only one!!

Although I have not met a single one of you in person, I feel I have made many new friends. It is sort of like having a Pen Pal in a modern kind of way. I like that I can write about something I am not sure of, and then I get plenty of encouraging comments. I like knowing that I may have taught you a thing or two. It does my heart good when you keep coming back! Thank you!!

I am nominating 5 Rockin' Girl Bloggers and hope you wear the badge with pride (as you should!).

Lady M from Braveheart Does The Maghreb -- an absolute delight to read and I never miss a post!

Lindystar from Danielle is a Hor -- guaranteed to make you laugh out loud!

Suffering Summer from A Shot In The Dark -- a kindred spirit and my kind of girl!

Drunk Mummy from.. Drunk Mummy -- a funny blog that will keep you up to date on what to drink!

and last but not least: Elsie Button from Flower Fairies and Fairy Cakes -- a fun account of a first time mom!

Post the 'Rockin' Girl Blogger' badge on your site-- here's how: click on the badge and save as a picture then click 'add a picture' on your post. That should do it!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Take a Deep Breath and Hold It...

If you have ever wondered what skunk smells like, you have come to the right place! Last night, being such a cool night with a lovely breeze blowing through, we had all the windows open. I was on the Video Phone talking to one of my girlfriends and the girls were tucked away and sleeping. Then I smelled it. Faint, at first. A whiff of skunk wafting in through the windows. It was just a whiff and then it passed. I didn't pay it any mind. It was like driving on the highway at 60 mph and you pass a dead skunk on the side of the road; a whiff of skunk and then it's gone.

Then it came again, stronger. Have you ever vacuumed the carpet and got a string caught up in the rolling brush and then the brush gets caught and you get that burning rubber smell? It was sorta, kinda, a little bit like that, only STRONGER! With a dash of stink-bug mixed in. You know, that ugly black beetle that scurries around on the basement floor and then you smash it with the nearest handy item and it releases that stink. Ugh! Add in a sprinkle of burnt, and I do mean black, toast and I think you've got the idea what skunk smells like.

That smell got stronger and stronger and the poor eyes started watering. I told my friend there was a skunk outside and she told me she could smell it, too! That's how strong it was! The smell stayed and lingered like an unwelcome guest eating up all your food and then scrounging around in your pantry and digging out your secret stash of chocolate covered cherries. It spilled itself all over the couch and refused to leave, instead, falling asleep and bellowing out roars with every breath in and out. It marched into my nostrils and pulled on all my nose hairs and tied them into a hundred knots.

Hubby came home and said, "Must be a skunk out there." Really????? I couldn't tell.

We went to bed knowing the smell would fade away, riding away on the breeze, bothering some other poor soul's nose. How wrong we were! We woke to the smell of skunk. It's a lovely smell first thing in the morning-- a real eye-opener. Apparently the cat tangled with the skunk. Poor Lucy reeks of skunk. I made the mistake of petting her and no matter how many times I wash my hands, I can still smell skunk on my palms. Apparently they tangled right outside the office sliding door, so every time I come in to check the computer, read some blogs, I have to sit and mingle with the smell of skunk, like being introduced over and over to the same drunken cad who can't remember your name but remembers to give you a slobbery kiss as he leaves and you're left with a dripping wet cheek and no towel to wipe it off.

If there was a 'scratch and sniff' option, you'd do well not to scratch and sniff. You'd back away and run quickly in the opposite direction. In fact, you wouldn't even need to scratch... it's burning through. I can't take it anymore. I'm going to douse myself in my favorite perfume and close the office door. I'll be buying a couple quarts of tomato juice tomorrow. Imagine how poor Lucy must feel...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Lull Between Berries...

The mulberries are mostly gone and I am letting the birds have the rest. The blackberries are just past their peak and I am only getting a couple of cups worth of berries on my daily rounds. I am waiting for the raspberries now. They are almost ripe and will likely be ready in a few days. Then I shall be busy again, smashing, squeezing and making raspberry jam. In the meantime, a trip down memory lane...

When I came into the world, my parents and sister were living in the country in Illinois. Mom and Dad bought some land and built a house-- they literally helped build it. I always have a hard time imagining Mom on the roof nailing down roofing materials but I have to remind myself that she was young and in her 20s when she did that. Mom and Dad worked different shifts at the town's GE factory so they wouldn't need to hire a babysitter or put us kids in daycare. My sister, who is Deaf, went to deaf school at the age of 3, which was standard at the time, to send deaf children to school early and give them a "head start" on communication skills and education. Mom said it was hard to let her go so early and cried for days afterwards. My sister seemed to thrive at the school and I was home with the parents, so it almost seemed like I was an only child. Sis came home on weekends and then she was gone again during the week.

The town we lived in was small-ish and had all the basics as I remember. We would get our meat from the butcher shop and I remember going with my Dad. I don't seem to picture my Mom coming, but I am sure she did. The butcher shop had a guard dog, maybe not so much a guard dog but he wasn't friendly. I had a best friend that had big friendly dogs and in my mind, I assumed all dogs were lovable, friendly dogs. I walked right up to the butcher shop dog and started to pat it on the head when it lunged at me and bit me on the forehead. I am sure I screamed, though I don't remember that detail. What I do remember is the butcher shop owner giving me an ice-cold bottle of orange soda (Crush?) and I was happily drinking down it's orange, bubbly goodness while all the adults fussed over me. I have a scar on my forehead as a result of Mr. Dog.

There was a restaurant called Al's (at least that is what I remember) and we would eat there once in a while. I seem to think that the place was owned by the neighbor that lived behind us. His name was Al. They served yummy food, or else we wouldn't have eaten there. What I remember is yummy, crispy, gooey cheddar cheese balls! How my sister and I would love to bite into these hot, round, crispy balls of cheese and then pull and watch the strings of gooey cheese stretch and we'd wind these strings of cheese around our fingers and pull them off with our teeth. I've never had fried cheddar cheese balls again after we moved and I hope one day to try them again.

School for me was a long bus ride away. I once saw an aerial picture of the town and the school was in the middle of a corn field, perhaps 5 to 10 miles away. I remember missing the bus one morning and being so upset, I cried. I ran into the house and Dad drove to catch up to the bus, waving at the driver to pull over so I could get on the bus. I was so happy as I sniffed away my tears and took my seat next to my friends, Mark and Toni.

I am a little vague on the school building, but I DO remember during a little birthday party the kindergarten class was having, throwing up all over my cupcake. I had to lie down on a cot in a darkened, spare room in the nurse's office, miserably waiting for someone to come and get me. Turns out I got the chicken pox and I had to stay home for a week. I was more upset over not getting to eat the cupcake than I was with throwing up. Mark, my friend and a neighbor, brought me my school work and I think, a new cupcake to eat.

Home was a lovely place. We had a big house (big in my 6 year old eyes) and I shared a room with my sister, which wasn't really sharing much since she was away at school most of the time. We had a sunny yellow bedroom with homemade quilts and matching curtains and matching crocheted rag rug, all made by Mom. Dad helped her pick out the colors and my sister and I had matching patterned quilts-- mine with green and hers with orange. We used to run and jump onto the rug and it would slide across the room on the smooth wood floors. There used to be a doll that sat on the top shelf of the closet that I couldn't reach and I wasn't allowed to play with until I was older. I'm not too sure what happened to that doll, but I sure do remember the temptation it called out, begging me to get a chair and stand on my tippy toes and still, I couldn't reach it.

We had a pool in the backyard. Dad built a deck and a small pool shed to store all the pool supplies and toys. I remember not being allowed to go in the pool until Mom or Dad were present and impatiently waiting, waiting, waiting. Dad kept a hose under the deck, coiled into a round pile. Sometimes we had to add more water to the pool so it was easier to leave the hose there. I took that hose out one day and swung it around doing a fancy dance (in my mind, it was on a stage with other dancers) and all of a sudden I felt hot water splash my tummy. I thought it was water from the hose, hot from sitting in the sun, but it was a wasp that had crawled in the hose and was mad from being swung around inside there and stung me 3 times on my tummy. Dad picked me up and dropped me into the cool water of the pool and I hung there on the edge, tears running down my cheeks, my belly hot and stinging. I stayed away from that hose from then on.

We lived next to a field, I'm not sure if it was a corn field, wheat field, or pasture, but I do remember Dad warning me not to go out of the side door of the garage without peeking out the door first. Snakes would slither out of that field and come to sunbathe on the hot concrete stoop and if I ever saw a snake there, I was to get Dad right away and he would take care of it. I think he used a shovel to chop it in half and then toss the remains back into the field. Dad had children to protect.

We had a deaf cat named Snowball. Long, white fur with one blue eye, one green eye. He was a handsome cat and came and went as he pleased. I was looking out of the big picture window in the living room one day and I saw Snowball sitting on the corner of the driveway, giving himself a bath. I saw the mean 3-legged dog coming up behind Snowball and I feared for him! There was no point in calling for him or yelling because he was Deaf, so all I could do was watch in horror, sure that Snowball's fate was sealed as the mean 3-legged dog came closer and closer. He barked and growled, his teeth bared in an ugly snarl. Snowball never moved, kept on about his business, giving himself a bath. You could see the puzzlement in the mean dog's face and if there was a thought balloon above his head it would have said, "Why isn't this cat taking off so I can chase it, catch it and chew him to bits?" The dog must have barked a good 5 minutes at Snowball and he never stopped bathing, never noticed there was a barking, growling dog behind him. Thought balloon above dog's head now said, "Shit! This is one tough cat! He ain't scared! *Gulp!* He's gonna whup my ass! I'm outta here!" And the mean 3-legged dog tucked his tail between his legs and ran off. Too bad there wasn't a video camera rolling to catch it on tape, that would have won the grand prize on America's Funniest Videos for sure!

Country life was good to that little 6 year old girl. We moved shortly before my 7th birthday. The parents sold the house, moved us into a travel trailer and took us down to Louisiana. That's a whole 'nother tale.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

We Be Jammin'-- A Step-by-Step

Here is a Step-by-Step on how to make Seedless Blackberry Jam. Before we begin, I am in no way a professional photographer and I am not used to taking pictures while I am cooking at the same time, so please forgive the blurry photos and the not-so-bright ones. I thought the pictures conveyed what I was trying to tell so they'll do the job nicely. Before you begin your jam-making, be sure to have these utensils on hand:
Jar Funnel (the blue thing in the left hand top corner, they come in different colors and metal ones, too), clean jars with bands and lids, ladle, silicone spatula (the silicone can handle high heat and regular spatulas will melt as I have since learned!), a potato masher (something like this would work best, the wire ones don't mash evenly), and jar tongs to protect your fingers from touching hot jars in boiling hot water. You'll also need cheesecloth or an old flour sack towel (not pictured).
You'll also need a large canning pot, and 2 large cooking pots-- stainless steel preferred. One pot for boiling the clean jars and lids and the other pot for the jam.
What you'll need for the jam: Sugar- lots of it! Lemon juice, blackberries and fruit pectin.
Take a colander and set it on a large measuring cup (mine is an 8 cup size) and then put the cheesecloth or flour sack towel on top. Place a layer of berries in the towel and smash with the masher.
When berries look like this, you are ready to SQUEEEEZE and say hello to your Popeye forearms!
Hello, Popeye forearms! You squeeze and squeeze and squeeze. Wring that cloth with the berry pulp in there and squeeze every last drop out of it! Take THAT Mr. Boss! (I should warn you, berry juice stains the counters AND your hands. You can use rubber gloves, but I don't mind a couple days of purple fingers. The counter will clean great with that Mr. Clean scrubber sponge-- no house should be without this fine scrubber!) You'll need to repeat this step several times, discarding the seedy pulp and smashing a fresh layer of berries until you have enough juice to equal...

3 1/2 cups. Can't see the measurement here very well (I told you I wasn't a professional photographer!), but take my word for it, it says 3 1/2 cups. Before you begin the cooking part, fill the big canning pot two-thirds full of hot water and set it on the stove on high heat. Keep the cover on. In another big pot, place several clean jars and lids and fill with water. Put that on the stove and boil on med-high heat. Kitchen will get HOT so keep that exhaust fan running and wear cool clothing. Feel free to imagine yourself in a steamy spa.

Pour juice into a large pot.
Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.

Add 1 package of fruit pectin. I use Ball Natural Gel Original Fruit Pectin. There are other brands and other types-- low sugar recipe, freezer jam recipe, etc... If you make those other kinds, follow the directions included in the package. Cook jam, lemon juice and pectin on high heat, stirring constantly with your silicone spatula. This will be about 10 minutes of stirring and singing The Sound of Music Do Re Me Fa So La Ti Do-- Doe a deer, a female deer, Ray a drop of golden sun, Me a name I call myself, Far a long long way to run, Sew a needle pulling thread, La a note to follow so, Tea a drank with jam and bread, that brings us back to do do do do Doe a deer..... Stir until your hands get tired and keep on stirring. When it starts to boil rapidly, let it boil for a minute.Then add 5 cups of sugar all at once. (It helps to pre-measure and have the sugar set aside waiting) Stir some more. Keep stirring. The sugar will all dissolve and it will be about another 10 minutes of stirring before it starts to boil again. Keep stirring until it looks like...

This. When it finally starts boiling rapidly again, let it boil for a minute then remove from heat. Working quickly, (remember that pot of jars you've been boiling? ) using the jar tongs, remove a jar and place hot jar onto a towel next to the cooked jam.

Using the ladle (picture isn't the best, sorry), fill the jar almost to the top. Directions say, "Leave 1/4 inch head space." That just means almost to the top and leave a little wiggle room! After jar is filled, wipe the rim with a damp towel and retrieve a hot lid from the same pot you had the jars in. Wipe dry and place on jar, then tighten band. Use towel to hold jar while you tighten the lid.

Then take your jar tongs and carefully place into the hot water canning pot and make sure water covers the top of the jar by at least 2 inches. don't forget the water level will rise as you add more jars. Repeat until all the jam is in the jars and you have the canner filled. If you have some jam left and not enough to fill a jar, you can refrigerate and eat for breakfast the next morning.
Cover the canning pot with lid and return to a boil. When it starts boiling, then you can set your timer and boil for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, use your jar tongs and carefully set on a towel. Cover all the jars with another towel to keep the jars from cooling too quickly. You'll hear the lids "popping".

Since I do my canning at night (so the kids don't bother me and it's cooler at night and I can sleep off the hot kitchen) by morning, the jars are cool enough to handle. Still a little warm and the jam isn't completely set yet. When it is completely cool, the jam in the jar should be set and you can store in a cool dry space for up to a year. If it lasts that long!

There you have it! Jam!! Or jelly if you prefer.. whatever.. it's yummy on toast, biscuits, desserts, fingers. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

We Be Jammin'!

If you've been wondering where I have been these past couple of days, I'll tell you now. As soon as I put the girls to bed, I run to the kitchen and smash berries, squeeze every last drop out of 'em, boil the juice, add sugar and boil it some more. I pour hot liquid into hot jars and boil the entire jar and its' contents some more! And Voila! Mulberry Jam is born!! We be jammin'!! We be sweatin'!! In a hot kitchen!! We be jammin'!! Not quite done with the mulberries yet.. I'll finish the rest of the mulberries tonight and then the next canning project will be raspberry jam. Raspberry bushes are turning pink and will probably be ripe in the next couple of days.

I wait until the girls go to bed, because I attempted to make it in the morning while Hubby was supposed to amuse the kids. The girls were more interested in what I was doing instead of what Daddy was doing. Let me tell you, smashing berries is the fun part, but I don't let the girls do it because the juice stains the counter tops and I want minimal stains on my already ugly 70's lime green faux marbled Formica counter top. Berry juice splatter might actually make the counter top look prettier, but... (Future home improvement project: new counter tops and cabinets) Then after the berries are smashed, I put them into cheesecloth and SQUEEEEZE. I have forearms the size of Popeye's now with all the squeezing I did. If you are in a pissy mood, this is a good workout for you. You can imagine you are wringing your spiteful boss' neck or Miss Uppity neighbor with the spoiled brat kid that gets on your last nerve. You could also boil the smashed berries and then let them d r i p, d r i p, d r i p slowly, but I have no patience for that. Frankly, I have no time for that, unless I want to be making jam in the wee hours of the night and I value my sleep more, thank you very much.

Once you have the juice, the rest of the work goes by much faster. I tend to spend one night smashing and squeezing and then the next night making the jam. Tonight is berry smashing night.

What's that you say? That's a lot of jam and I am making more?? Oh, well if you have 3 little ones that like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and toast with jam (cue music-- Tea, a drink with jam and bread, jam and bread, jam and bread. Doe, a deer, a female deer....)just about every other day, the jam goes fast! Plus I like to give some as gifts and who doesn't like homemade jams?? That's all the time I have now. It's time for the girls to go to bed and time for me to get out some of my pent-up frustrations.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Music Challenge

I've been issued a challenge by Dj Kirkby over at her blog-- Exquisite Dreams. She writes a lovely blog and also has a second blog for her stories, Adventures of a Hippie Child. Her challenge is a music one. Go to and pick out music from the year you turned 18. Get all nostalgic and then write a post about how this music affected you. Most people probably wouldn't bother issuing a music challenge to a Deaf woman, but I am glad she did, because she remembered that I do like music. Once upon a time, I couldn't live without music, fell asleep to music and woke up to music. Here's my answer to the challenge...

I turned 18 Fall of 1991. I had just graduated in June and spent most of the summer performing with my High School Road Show. We danced, signed songs and performed skits to a wide range of audiences, and also gave drama-related sign language work-shops. At the end of the summer, late August, we went to Argentina, South America. We were there for a week and performed in a well-known theater and toured the country. One of the songs we did that was on the top charts at the time was Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now) by C&C Music Factory. I loved that song! We had a choreographer come in and teach us a dance and taught us the words and we'd practice for HOURS.

How do Deaf people learn words and dance to music? By cranking up the bass! We would dance on wood floors that were hollow and they carried the vibrations well, so we could feel the beat. Then we'd memorize the words and count beats between pauses in the lyrics. I could hear so I didn't have to count beats, but I memorized the words like everyone else. That was such a fun song to learn and I still remember most of the words and some of the dance moves.

That Fall, I didn't know what to do with myself... Go to College? What field of work did I want to do? I was completely lost. I spent a lot of time at home watching MTV and reading books. I was fortunate to have a Mom that wasn't nagging and encouraging me to find myself and figure out what I wanted to do. On weekends, I went to a dance club/bar in DC and I never had to show my ID. The bouncers assumed I was over 21 and slapped a wristband on me so I was able to score drinks. The bar was in a rough area of DC and when you got there, the parking, what little there was, was already packed and you had to park on the street. There would be plenty of rough looking black dudes saying they'd watch your car for 5 bucks. They weren't valets but you paid 'em, because if you didn't, your car ended up getting keyed, trashed or worse.

Once inside, there were 3 main areas-- on your left was a punk music area and everyone there was banging their heads to the music and pretty much slamming around. I didn't like going into that area. On the right, down a dark hall, with neon painted pictures that glowed under black-light, pass the bathrooms where no one cared if you were a male in the girl's bathroom or a female in the boy's bathroom, as long as you could get in to pee, was a huge dance room that played top hits, mixed songs and electronica music. This was where I hung out! There was a long bar on the left side of the room, an upper balcony that over looked the dance floor and on the right was an upstairs bar with tables for people that wanted to sit and drink. The third main area was outside and music was piped out from inside and there was a squared off sandbox for playing volleyball and sort of had a tiki bar feel to it. I would go out there if it got too hot inside.

We would drink and dance all night, all types of people sharing the dance floor. Fights would break out regularly, maybe a guy ogling another guy's girl, or gang rivalry... whatever the reason, big beefy bouncers were there with lightening speed to break up the fight and toss 'em out! I never felt like I shouldn't be there, I never felt in danger, but looking back, if Mom knew I was there, she would have freaked! One of the songs that always filled the up dance floor was Set Adrift On Memory Bliss by P.M. Dawn. The DJ mixed it up and made it last longer and it was a crowd pleaser. I could see people mouthing the words and arms waving in the air to the beat. Dancing was always fun for me, until there was an over-eager guy that wanted to get too close or he had more than two hands and it was difficult to keep him away from you. I remember once, there was a dude that I was dancing with and he pulled up my shirt and had it over my head so fast, I couldn't react quick enough. I pushed him away and moved closer to the friends I came with and kept my eye out for him.

The place is gone now. Too many complaints of fights and police being called over, too many underage kids getting drinks. The whole place went seedy and they finally closed it and bulldozed it down.

There was a vintage car show at the DC convention center and a car buff I knew wanted to go and asked me to come along. We took the subway and the closest stop was a couple blocks away. Since there was a big event going on, all kinds of vendors set up along the sidewalk and one of them was selling bootleg copies of music tapes. I had to stop and take a look. The one I bought was Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch with that song that always gets stuck in your head long after you hear it-- Good Vibrations. I wore that tape out! I had posters of Marky Mark in his Calvins on my bedroom wall and I loved that bad boy sneer he had in those pictures. I kept a diary and I even taped a ripped out magazine ad of Marky in there!

Everything I Do (I Do It For You) by Bryan Adams. Do I need to say more? When Robin Hood came out, I waited for the video (Movie theaters didn't have captions back then so most Deaf people waited for the video) and fell in love with both the movie and the song. One of the first CDs I bought was that album and on the back in the liner notes, there was a bit where if you sent in a request, they'd send you a lyric book. I sent for it and sure enough, I got it! I memorized just about every song on that album! I always liked it when albums would include the lyrics so Deaf people like me could know what I was listening to.

There was one group that I liked and all my friends thought I was so corny. But I bought the album and listened to it and fell in love with all the other stuff on it, too. I'm Too Sexy by Right Said Fred. I still listen to it and I still love it as much as I did then. It's just a fun album to listen to and every time I hear it, I can't help but smile and I start dancing. My girls look at me like I have a screw loose, but I don't care, I'm dancing anyway! They join me sooner or later and we all have a ball!

All these songs were top hits in 1991 and I loved them all, but the ones above are the ones I have personal memories attached to and whenever I hear them, on the radio, on TV or when I pop in the CD, it takes me back!

Justify My Love -Madonna

Love Will Never Do-- Janet Jackson (remember the video??)

I've Been Thinking About You-- Londonbeat

You're In Love -- Wilson Phillips

Baby Baby -- Amy Grant (I loved loved loved this one!)

More Than Words -- Extreme

Rush Rush -- Paula Abdul

Unbelieveable -- EMF

The Promise of a New Day -- Paula Abdul

I Adore Mi Amour -- Color Me Badd

Cream -- Prince (Before he was Formerly Known as Prince)

Black Or White -- Micheal Jackson

To Be With You-- Mr. Big

Save The Best For Last -- Vanessa Williams (this one gets stuck in my head sometimes)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Wet Cat

We had a summer storm today. Guess who got caught in the rain? Our cat, Charlie. Doesn't he look cute?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Kiddie Popsicles

Living in the mountains, far from heavily populated areas, many people here have wells and septic systems. Your home is pretty much self-sustaining with the exception of being connected to the Power and Phone Companies. There are homes up here that are not connected to anything and use generators and no phones at all (the heathens!).

If you have not tasted fresh mountain water from a well, you don't know what you are missing-- cold and crisp-tasting, no trace of chloride that city water has, just plain yummy! The downside to that is, when you want to fill up a kiddie pool with well water, be prepared to turn into an ice cube! The first time we filled a kiddie pool with water, we mistakenly thought we could dive (not literally!) right in. *GASP* Completely takes your breath away! Every nerve in your body is screaming, "Get out of the water NOW!" Your feet have gone numb! They are beyond numb and are now tingly, inching towards frostbite! Your skin has a bluish tinge to it. By the time you react and jump out of the pool, you can't move and must be laid out on a stretcher with heated blankets and hot cups of hot chocolate-- in 95 degree weather.

We have learned to fill up the pool the day before and let the water warm to air temperature and then our children don't become popsicles. They are beyond kiddie pool age now and are begging us to get one of those "portable" pools that are at least 3 feet deep or more. We are thinking about it, but will need to put aside some money every week to be able to get one. In the meantime, they are content to run about while Hubby aims the hose on them.

We made a grave error in judgement Sunday night. The children were playing outside most of the day and by bedtime, were quite filthy. Playing in the mud and cooking up mud pies will do that to kids. So Hubby had the idea to hose 'em down. Told them to strip naked and Hubby would rinse 'em. They'd run and shriek, dash away and come back for more. Even Youngest joined in the fun! I should have felt the water first. I should have brought Youngest into the house and plunked her into the bath.

When Youngest woke this morning, she had a runny nose and a raging fever. Poor thing. We knew right away it was from that cold mountain water. We feel terrible. I have been watching her all day, alternating between hot and cold, chills and sweats, dunking her in cool baths to bring down the fever. Poor thing was miserable, and when she is miserable, the other two pick up on it and become whiny and miserable, too. I was going to go to the food store today, I couldn't find my wallet. I became whiny and miserable. Hubby was happy to go to work I imagine, although I give him credit for offering to stay home from work. It was a whiny and miserable day.

If you ever make it out to the mountains and you are going to be using well water--- dunk a toe to test the waters, will ya?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

An Ode to Hubby

When Hubby and I were dating, then living together, we had a tendency to ask hard questions of one another. I suppose you could say we were trying to see what our limits were and where the boundaries lie. Make sure that we each knew what we were getting into before we tied the knot.

One day, we talked about the possibilities of children. He said he didn't really want any kids and I sorta, kinda felt the same way. I was of the mind that the world was horrible and how could anyone bring a child into this terrible place! We got married, had the honeymoon and settled into marriage happily. All around us, people would ask, "When are we going to have kids?" Then all our friends were having babies. It was unavoidable! Babies and children were everywhere!

I started feeling a little tug inside, I know I said I didn't want any kids, but I want HIS kid. All of a sudden, my point of view changed. Instead of fearing the terrible world and what it would do to my children, I thought I could raise my children to make the world better. I watched Hubby play with other people's kids and he was SO great at it! He would tussle and play, roll on the floor with them, make funny faces and sounds! I wanted him to do that to OUR kid. I brought up the subject of having a kid with him and he was surprisingly receptive to the idea while at the same time resistant. He had an irrational fear of us lugging around a moving truck of baby things when we would leave the house. A traveling nursery all packed into a huge diaper bag and taking forever to go somewhere. I had to remind him that I don't even carry a purse and when we go on overnight trips, when have I ever packed 426 suitcases full of just-in-case outfits and shoes? That isn't what convinced him-- it was the baby-making fun that did it!

As all new soon-to-be Fathers do, he was over-protective in every way. Wouldn't let me pick up a sack of potatoes. I couldn't let the cat sit on my growing tummy. Should I be drinking that? But when it came to sex, everything was OK, baby was fine! Although there was plenty of giggling, imagining the baby catching sight of a one-eyed snake!

He didn't really want to be in the Labor and Delivery room with me, he is sensitive to the sight of blood and gore. He was afraid he'd pass out and then doctors would be paying attention to him instead of me. He wanted nothing to do with cutting the umbilical cord, saying it was the doctor's job, not his. He thought it was over-rated, making daddies feel like part of the birth if they cut the cord. Hell, he helped make the baby, didn't he??? We watched a lot of 'Baby Story' on TV and it sort of prepared him for the birth of his own child.

After Oldest was born and we were home from the Hospital, I asked him what it was like, seeing me give birth. We didn't have a video or anyone snapping pictures so I only know what I saw from above, looking between my legs. He said he felt in awe, watching his child being born, but mostly, he felt sorry for my poor, stretched out coochie. He found it fascinating how I stretched and ripped and pushed that child out of me and then my body healed and shrunk and returned to normal.

Hubby was wonderful with Oldest. He burped her and changed her diapers, fell asleep holding her. It was as if he was always a Daddy. Now, with 3 daughters, I can't even begin to imagine him NOT being a daddy. He is great with the girls, plays with them, rolls on the floor with them. Tickle-fests and reads them stories. Tells them about his Navy days (the G-rated version). He melts in the middle of scolding them, when they smile and flutter their eyelashes. He puts them to bed when he is home at nights and tells them made-up stories, says a prayer and kisses them on their cheeks.

He tells me that they aren't allowed to date until they are 35, he is going to invest in a triple barrel shotgun, and create a 100 page questionnaire for boys that want to date our daughters. Take fingerprints, mug shuts and the kind of car; make, model, and license plate number. He is going to start digging a moat and should be finished by the time Oldest is ready to date.

I love Hubby with all my heart and soul. He is my best friend. He is a terrific Father. He is a Daddy. Happy Father's Day, my love.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

No Money, No Fun??

We are making this weekend a 'stay around the house weekend'. In other words, we're broke and we can't afford to do anything else! As a 1-income family, those are the choices we have made for ourselves. For me to stay home and raise our girls and for Hubby to be the sole bread-winner. We may not have a whole lot of money, but we have a whole lot of other stuff to more than make up for it.

There are times I have to sacrifice something I want, to make sure I can get the things we need. But you know what? When I wait until we have extra money to get IT, I find that by then, I don't want IT anymore. A lot of things that people purchase are 'impulse buys'. I have had more than my share of those when I worked at the post office. We made so many impulse buys that we put us in debt with the credit card companies. After I quit, we cut up the credit cards and decided not to use them anymore. We tried and tried to pay down the debt, but with the high interest on them, it was nearly impossible. When we sold our old house and made a profit, the first thing we did was pay off 95% of the credit cards. The other 5% was a small, low interest card that we wanted to keep for emergencies and we have since paid down most of the debt on it.

Now, living on the income we get from Hubby's job, and the money we make from selling items on eBay, we are doing alright. We have our days where we can't spend a dime because we don't have a dime to spare, and then we get some extra cash and we save them for rainy days. It has really helped us to see what is important and what we can do without. Pricey brand name clothing? Foo! Who needs to pay $50 for a shirt when I can pick up a perfectly nice Ralph Lauren Polo shirt at the Goodwill for $5 (no kidding! I really did!). Eating out 3 or 4 times a week? Foo! I prefer to know exactly what is in the food I eat and I can't see paying $8.00 for a plate of pasta when I can make a whole meal for $8.00! Expensive toys for the children? I used to buy everything brand new when we first had Oldest, but after spending $75.00 for a saucer and then seeing the exact same saucer at a children's consignment shop for $25, I had a major wake-up call. There are very few toys that I buy new and those are mostly for sanitary reasons-- talking, plush Care Bears can't really be washed and who knows what baby drooled all over it?

It helps that Hubby and I are both yard sale connoisseurs and we love digging up a good bargain. Lots of times I find something for cheap and I re-sell it on eBay and make a nice profit on it. Once, we went to a barn yard sale and they had all kinds of goodies. I had a big pile and when I was ready to pay, there was a pile of stuff on the ground near the table where you pay. A shiny metal canister set caught my eye and I asked about it. The lady shrugged at it and said it was junk. I asked if I could have it and she said 50 cents. Turns out it was a vintage aluminum grease canister and matching salt and pepper shakers with it's original label in the original, tattered plastic bag. I cleaned it up a little, posted it on eBay and it sold for over $30!!
Hubby likes to imagine those people at the yard sale snickering to themselves, "Those suckers! They bought our trash for 50 cents!" Who's laughing now?

A friend of mine also runs a children's consignment shop and I sell a lot of my girl's outgrown clothes and toys through her. I volunteer and work with her and in return, she gives me the full profit on my sold items instead of the customary 50%. I will also go to yard sales and find toys for 50 cents and turn around and sell them with her for $25 or more. She does her sales twice a year, Spring and Fall, for about 6 weeks at a time. I can take my kids with me when I volunteer and it is a nice break from my usual stay at home routine. I like to think that Hubby and I have all kinds of resources to make money if we needed to.

So while I am a little bit disappointed that we can't afford to go yard sale-ing or take a drive up to anywhere-but-here, we had lots of fun at home. We spent the morning after breakfast picking mulberries and blackberries, then worked in the garden a little. Took a break for lunch, then it was back outside to cut some trees down. We put the girls to work hauling the cut branches to the burn pile and we promised roasted marshmallows on a stick when we burn our pile later on. We are trying to clear some trees for a bigger back yard and at the same time, we will use the cut trees for firewood this winter. Nothing goes to waste! Tomorrow will probably be more of the same, except we will let Hubby relax a little since it is Father's Day.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Oops! She did it again!

Oldest did it again... She is doing things all by herself without asking first and I finally figured it out-- she waits until I am occupied with one of the other girls before she goes on her mission! Clever girl!

We have a few plants around the house and Oldest had been bugging me to help her plant her own plant. So last week, one of the plants I snipped off and set in water to grow roots was ready to be transplanted. I let her pick out a pot from the bunch I have and she saw where I kept the dirt when I went to get it. We planted it, watered it and she put in in the window, all proud of her new "baby".

Today, while I was busy bathing Middle after she had a poop accident in her underwear (not quite poopy trained), Oldest sees it as the perfect time to do something all by herself! She gets another pot, drags the bag of dirt out and takes a bag of seeds from my box of garden seeds and proceeded to plant some seeds. By the time I caught her, she was done and had just finished watering it. Want to know what she planted? Onions!

I explained again that I really wanted her to ask first before she does things on her own. I am proud that she wants to do all these things, that she feels capable and she actually knows how to do them. I just want her to let me know so I can supervise her. I would feel terrible if she did something without me knowing and if she got hurt, I wouldn't hear her cries. Between the chatter of the TV and the squeals of my other two, I would not hear Oldest if I wasn't nearby.

Before I put her to bed tonight, I sat next to her and we had a little talk. I told her how proud I was of her and that she was such a big girl now, but she still needs to ask for things first. Then I asked her some questions, pop quiz style-- What do you do if you are hungry? What do you do if you are thirsty? If you want to play outside, what do you do first? Ask Mom or Dad!

On a funny note, Hubby is a Navy man, as was his father and uncle. He was in the Navy for over 12 years before being honorably discharged and he speaks "Navy". I don't have much experience being around Military men except for what I see on TV and I know they tend to have a language of their own. It has rubbed off on my girls... I was scolding Middle and wagging my finger at her, when she pipes up, "Watch it with your finger there chief!" How can I stay mad after a line like that??? She is 3 1/2 and knows she was cute when she said it, too!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

5 Going on 25

It seems like in the eight days since my Oldest's birthday, in which she turned "big 5" as she likes to say, she has undergone a complete personality change. Please tell me this is just a phase!

She is now jumping into the shower by herself and deciding that because she is 5, she can use Mommy's shampoo and conditioner. I'll catch her after she has already squirted half a bottle of shampoo down the drain and half a bottle of conditioner on her hair. I'm NOT kidding. She also thinks she is old enough to "mother" Middle and tells her to get in the tub and proceed to bathe her using a whole bottle of baby wash and flooding the bathroom floor. Youngest, meanwhile, slips on a puddle of water and bangs her head and runs to me crying, soaked to the skin and I run in to the bathroom, only to see Oldest as proud as she can be, giving Middle a bath. I have also caught her using my deodorant on her armpits, her legs and her tummy.

The other day, I walked in the kitchen and caught Oldest doing the dishes. We don't have a dishwasher (unless you count me) and have to do the dishes by hand. Oldest wants to do them so bad (let's see how she feels when I make her do it everyday when she is OLDER) and dragged a chair over to the sink, squirted a cup of dish soap on the sponge and started washing. All the dishes she washed have a layer of soap still on them and there is now water all over the counter, dripping onto the floor. I have recently discovered our kitchen floor is not even, because the water starts trickling to the other side of the room instead of puddling by the sink. She is covered up to her elbows in soap suds and the front of her shirt is soaked with water and soap.

This morning, Oldest woke me up a little earlier than I normally wake, and said she was hungry (maybe if she would eat all her dinner the night before, she wouldn't be so darn hungry in the morning!) and I told her I'd get up in a little bit. Hubby reported to me that he caught her in the kitchen with the frying pan on the stove and getting ready to crack some eggs.

I sat Oldest down today and explained to her that she STILL has to ask permission to do things and she can't just do things because she is "big 5". Shortly after that, while I was busy changing Youngest's poopy diaper, I walked in the kitchen and caught Oldest making a bowl of oatmeal. She dragged the chair to the pantry door to flip up the latch we have to lock the pantry door, got 2 packets of instant oatmeal, dragged the chair to the cupboard for the measuring cup and heated water in the microwave. Opened packets and half landed in the bowl and half landed on the counter. Beep! goes the microwave, she gets the hot water and proceeds to pour, stir, add sugar and consume entire contents of bowl in less than 5 minutes.

Oh God! While I DO encourage independence, this all seems a little early for a 5 year old. My life is now going to be spent keeping a closer eye on Oldest to make sure she doesn't get into something she shouldn't. Is this normal??? For those of you with kids older than mine, did yours do that when they turned 5?? Please, please, please tell me this is just a phase and she will revert to back to her old self again.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

All About Me-- Tagged Again!

I've been tagged by Dana over at Life Turned Upside Down. She writes a wonderful Blog so go and check her out. Meanwhile I am to answer some questions about myself and tag 5 people. The following is a list of the people tagged before me and I am supposed to knock off the top one and put my name on the bottom:

  1. Families Are Like Fudge

  2. Special K Family

  3. Blogging Obsession

  4. Life Turned Upside Down

  5. Mountain Mama

What were you doing 10 years ago?

I was happily engaged and frequently calling in sick so we could spend all day in bed doing you-know-what!

What were you doing 1 year ago?

Same thing I am doing now except with a 6 month old baby attached to the boob!

5 snacks I enjoy:

  1. I go nuts for cashews
  2. Edy's chocolate cherry ice cream
  3. anything rhubarb
  4. (does anyone remember) SKOR (why'd they stop making it, is beyond me! I misssssss it!)
  5. My Aunt Nellie's fruit cake

5 songs I know all the lyrics to:

  1. Madonna's "Material Girl"
  2. Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors"
  3. Jefferson Starship's "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now"
  4. The Eagle's "Hotel California"
  5. R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion"

5 things I would do If I were a millionaire:

  1. Pay off all debts
  2. buy 200 acres and build 10 houses for certain family members and friends with a shared pool, garden and play area
  3. help parents out financially
  4. set up college funds for the girls
  5. vacation to Hawaii

5 bad habits:

  1. I'm an occasional nail-biter
  2. I twirl my hair
  3. I procrastinate
  4. I read blogs instead of paying attention to my girls-- sometimes
  5. dirty dishes sometimes sit in the sink until the next meal

5 things I like to do:

  1. Spend time with my girls and Hubby
  2. sew
  3. baking/cooking
  4. thrifting/yard sale-ing
  5. making stuff

5 things I will never wear again:

  1. skinny jeans
  2. size 36B bras
  3. daisy dukes
  4. leg warmers
  5. banana clips in my hair

5 favorite toys:

  1. my computer (Hubby says we have to get another computer, I SO agree!)
  2. my mandolin for slicing perfect slices of potatoes and other foods
  3. my retro stand mixer for all the baking I do
  4. my digital camera and photo printer
  5. Hubby

Did you learn anything about me?? I am supposed to tag 5 people but it gets hard to tag people when I did a tagging game not too long ago. If you want to do this, be my guest and tell me you did so I can peek at your blog and learn about YOU.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Aftermath

It's over. Weeks of preparations, days of menu planning, hours of working the party lists, and in 3 hours, it's all done (almost sounds like I was planning a wedding!). Oldest had a great time at her 5th birthday party and that is what counts.

We invited just over 30 people, family and close friends with children, and 10 people showed up. I CLEARLY had on the card I made, with a lovely picture of Oldest holding a cupcake inviting you to come to her party, a RSVP date. I asked people to please let me know if you can come (or not) so I can be sure to have plenty of food on hand. the RSVP date came and went and I had only heard from 10 people. So I sent out emails to the delinquent RSVP'ers. Half responded with, "Sorry, we are going out of town." or "We aren't coming. Having a graduation party." And the others didn't reply at all. Now, I didn't expect everyone to come, but have some courtesy and let me know if you can make it (or not). If you get invited somewhere and there is a RSVP on there, puh-leeze reply and let them know if you can make it. Common courtesy!

I went to the grocery stores on Thursday, before the party, and bought all the food I would need to make tacos and cakes, and ice cream and party favors. I dragged 3 girls around town with me to the stores and nearly set off 3 ticking time bombs in the process. Then I spent the next 2 days, cooking and prepping the food so I could actually enjoy myself at the party instead of slaving away in the kitchen. Hubby spent all day Saturday trying to fix the riding mower so he could cut the grass and make the yard pretty. He was so proud when he came in the house, all dirty and greasy, and said, "I fixed it!" Then he went back out and mowed the lawn.

Saturday evening, in the middle of making dinner, I had 2 friends that I invited to the party show up out of the blue (one was a delinquent RSVP'er and never replied). They happened to be in the area for an anniversary party for her grandparents and decided to pop over since they weren't going to come the next day. As nice as it was to see them, and Oldest enjoyed playing hide-and-seek with her kids, I was sorta, kinda, just a little bit in crazy lady mode, trying to get stuff ready for tomorrow and making dinner at the same time and Hubby was wise to stay out of the kitchen when I am in such a mood.

So, everything was put on hold for a couple of hours so us girls could shoot the breeze and the kids could run around and play. By the time they left and we sat down to dinner, it was 8 o'clock. We normally eat at 6. Girls are normally in bed at 8:30. Instead of sending the girls to bed at 8:30 and then having the rest of the night to myself to decorate the cakes and clean up my messy kitchen, I had to wait for the food in their tummies to settle and I ended up making cupcakes instead because by then, it was 10 o'clock and my energy was quickly running on empty.

Sunday morning, day of the party, Oldest wakes me up at 5 in the morning mumbling something (she was probably talking clearly but with no glasses or hearing aid on, it came across as a mumble). I turned to Hubby and he said she wet the bed. I got up, and saw Middle was awake, too. I had a flashlight so as to not disturb Middle, but since she was awake, I flipped on the light. I was not happy with what I saw. In the middle of the floor, Oldest had pulled off all the sheets and blankets from her bed and already went into the linen closet and pulled a clean set of sheets and tried to dress the bed herself. I had to think a little bit and asked Oldest, "If you wet the bed, then your jammies should be wet, too. Why are you still wearing your jammies? " I checked her and both her underwear and jammies were dry! I checked the sheets-- dry! She just wanted to change her sheets. At 5 in the morning! 5 o'clock! Then because Oldest got clean sheets, Middle wanted clean sheets, too. I told Middle she could wait until later and then I turned off the lights and stumbled back to bed, muttering to myself what crazy little girls I have and they must have gotten it from Hubby's side of the family.

I am officially awake at 8 am and I know I have barely 30 minutes before Hubby's parents get here. They are early birds and when they come to visit, are always the first to arrive and usually the first to leave. Sure enough, before I even get to washing the dishes from making cupcakes the night before, they're here. And then a half hour later, my aunt and uncle get here. Then an hour later, Hubby's sister and her family get here. On the invitation, the party time was put down as 11-4. Everyone was here before 10. I think in the future, I'll have a breakfast birthday party.

We had a good time seeing everyone and Oldest enjoyed playing with her cousins and opening the presents, blowing out the candles on her cake. So it was all worth it, to see everyone with full bellies and the smiles on their faces. The best part was the girls conking out after the party and I was able to sit down with my aunt and uncle (whom I hadn't seen in nearly a year) and catch up. They stayed for dinner and I was sad to see them go. Crazy lady is locked up in the attic and I wont be seeing her for awhile. I am happy, tired and pooped, but happy!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Berry Hot Days of Summer

Spring has stepped aside and Summer has bullied it's way in! Whew! It's hot here and humid, too. I must admit though, it's nothing like it was in DC. My school years in DC were so hot, you'd melt the minute you stepped out, leaving the cold embrace of air-conditioned buildings. Beads of sweat would appear as if a crown of water was placed on your head. Another minute or two, the fabric under your armpits soaked through. A sheen of sweat would appear on your arms and legs, hair would stick to your neck and if there was any slight breeze, it wouldn't cool you, it just merely moved the hot air around.

Here in the lush, green mountains, it doesn't seem to get as humid. You can play outside and it would be an hour before you finally start feeling the effects of the hot sun beating upon your shoulders. With all the trees, you are able to stand under a leafy umbrella and instantly feel several degrees cooler, and you are tempted to sit at the base of a tree and watch the dappled sunlight dance with the shade. Of course, with the children, there is no chance of taking a catnap in the shade and I must constantly be on the lookout for where each child has run off to. We are surrounded by trees with maybe 2 acres of cleared land where our house sits and the garden area.

My mulberries are starting to ripen, and every morning, before it gets too hot, we go out and pick the dark purple berries. I have 3 trees, one on the back corner of the house, one by the far end of the driveway and another in the garden area. The garden tree is the largest, has the most berries and also the one where the birds like to frequent. I feel like I am in competition, who can get the most berries, the birds or the human! Most of the branches are high and I have to reach to grab the end and pull it down towards me, so I am able to pick the juicy mulberries. The girls want to help and I will pull a branch low enough for them to pick a few, but they all end up in their mouths instead of the bucket. I'll tell them to search the ground for fallen berries and that gives me time to concentrate on the berries in the tree. I'll check on the girls and I'll see a purple stain slowly spreading around their mouths and fingers.

After awhile, when most of the ripe berries are picked and the gnats are winning the battle, the girls start losing their interest, having filled their little bellies and start to complain about the heat. "It's hot, mommy. Can we have a popsicle?" At 9:30 in the morning, I let them have a popsicle. Before you think I am teaching them poor nutrition, they are JUICE pops, made from 100 % juice. It IS hot here, after all and the icy cold popsicles help cool away the heat, their squirming slows down and they are happy to lick away at a frozen treat.

We have escaped into the cool recesses of the house, and because of the towering trees around us, it is still cool in here. When it starts to feel warm, I turn on the ceiling fans, one in every room of the house and it is enough, the blades cutting the heat and tossing the air around and the rooms cool again. Only when the temperatures rise above 100 and the heat becomes oppressive, the humidity wrapping it's wet, sticky fingers around you, do we close all the windows and turn on the air-conditioner, "canned air", Hubby likes to say. At night, when temperatures dip and the air outside is cool, but the house still hugs the warm air, we turn on the attic fan, which draws the cool night air into the house and up through the vent, out into the darkness. Curtains will billow from the air being pulled inside and I like to stand by the sheers and feel their softness on my skin, the cool air smelling sweet with mountain flavors. You can smell the nectar of flowers and the pungent, sweet smell of the earth.

Ah! Summer, the season to do all things outdoors and then to laze in the cool shade, taking a brief respite from the heat. When it is too hot to do anything, when simply stepping outside makes you break into a sweat, life is telling you to slow down and take it easy. Those lazy, hazy days of summer...

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Story Time at the Library

I took the girls to 'Story Time' at the public Library today. I am ashamed to say that in the more than 2 years we lived here, this is the first time I have stepped foot in the library. When we were kids, I practically lived at the library, devouring books and knowing the names of all the librarians. I was even given a job to help clean the library, but I digress, I am talking about 'Story Time'.

I wanted to do something different, to have the girls away from familiar surroundings and do something they've never done before. So, I looked up local events and saw that the library had story time every Wednesday morning at 11:00. Perfect! I made sure to tell Hubby the night before and again when I woke, that I was leaving to take the girls to the library. Hubby has a busy mind and tends to forget unless I remind him several times, and then he'll snap at me and say, I know, you told me already! Then when I am headed out the door, he'll ask where am I going. I made sure to tell the girls to get dressed after breakfast because we were going to the library and we needed to leave at 10:00. As any parent will tell you, it takes a bit longer to get ready for things with children than it was when you were a single individual, so I was trying to herd along the girlies so I could at least leave by 10:15. Middle told me she didn't want to get any shots at the library. Oh dear!

It takes about 20 minutes to get into town, driving up and down winding mountain roads, and then suddenly, you are in town. What made people see a mountain and decide that this was the perfect place to build a town? To carve out solid rock and make room for a house here and a store there. To bull doze part of a hill and put a Deaf school there. It makes for beautiful views but it stunts growth and there is no room for more, which come to think of it, makes it ideal for those small-town lovers.

We arrived at the library in good time, but the parking lot was packed, and by packed, I mean there were 15 cars in the parking lot and no room for any more. So I had to park across the street at the Rite Aid where there were signs every 20 feet warning, "Parking for Rite Aid Customers Only Violators Towed At Owners Expense". I felt obligated to drag three girlies into Rite Aid with me and buy a couple of drinks and then place them on the front seat with the receipt face up, clearly showing the Rite Aid logo, thereby proving I am a Rite Aid customer.

We jay-walk across the street and into the library and I can see, in the back where the children's book section is, other children are gathered. There were maybe 10 children altogether, mostly girls. Oldest was absolutely delighted to see all the books and happily went up and down each aisle grabbing random books to add to the growing pile in her arms. Middle was clinging to my leg and Youngest was giggling while running and playing peek-a-boo with me, disappearing behind the shelves.

Finally it was time to begin and there is a large wooden rocking chair sitting at the top of a large oval rug with a colorful border of the alphabet. I assumed the reader would be sitting in the rocking chair so I told two of my girlies to sit close to the chair so they could get good viewing of the pictures in the book. Youngest sat on my lap, flipping the pages of a picture book. A plump, casually dressed woman with over-done, highlighted hair grabs a kiddie chair and sits opposite of the rocker and starts to read. If you were looking at me, you would have seen my eyes roll around and if you were listening hard enough, a hiss escaped my lips. My girls flipped around and scooched closer to hear Miss Reader tell her tale.

I was sitting maybe 10 feet away and I couldn't hear her, so I don't know what was said. She read 2 books, of which my girls sat rapt and didn't move a muscle, while 2 rambunctious little boys ran around from one end of the room to the other, a curly-haired girl kept getting up to drink water out of a paper cone, and another girl rolled back and forth on the floor, her arms and feet bumping the other children. I was tempted to tell the mothers to take their kids and shoo! But my mouth behaved and I busied myself with Youngest. When the second story was over, Miss Reader stood and said she had a surprise, then she pulled out a brown paper bag puppet modeled after the bear in the second story. Apparently the bear was sleeping a lot and so when the bag was closed, the bear had eyelashes shut and he was asleep, but open the bag to expose 2 eyes and the bear was awake! Oldest looked back at me, with eyes that asked me if she could make a puppet, please please please! And I waved my arm, indicating her to go ahead and craft away!

Middle hung back, her eyes heavy with tears, her bottom lip quivering and I knew at once, there were too many people crowding around the table, mothers helping their children and the sound levels of voices talking and directing and laughter was too much for Middle to bear. I checked to be sure Oldest was doing fine, then I grabbed supplies for making another puppet and lead Middle to a table by herself and helped her make her own bear puppet. Her big smile when it was complete was enough to melt my heart.

Time to go and Oldest started stomping her feet and pointing at the books, "I don't want to go home. I want to buy some books!" I tried to explain, first gently, then sternly, that you have to borrow books from a library and that I just applied for a library card and they would send it in the mail and we could borrow books next time. "I don't want to go home. I want to buy some books!" Finally, I just dragged her pissy butt out of the library, across the street and much to my relief, my car, which was not towed away. All the way home, down winding roads, I had to endure kicks to the seat and when I looked in the rear view mirror to see what she wanted, all she had to say was, "I want to buy some books!" Argh!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Happy Birthday Oldest!

Today, June 5th, is Oldest girlies' birthday and I can't believe it has been 5 years since I gave birth to her. I still remember all the details vividly, as if it happened yesterday. My mom says that women tend to forget the pain of childbirth in order to continue to make more babies. I totally disagree, because I remember the pain, too, but the joy of babies overshadow the pain and that is what lets women have more babies.

5 years ago today, I was 2 weeks past my due date and carrying very low. My ob/gyn/midwife told me it was time to induce labor because she was afraid that if I waited much longer, the baby would be too big. Off we went to the hospital to get induced. After the gel was inserted, I was told to come back in the morning at 7 am (blink-blink... who wakes up that early? To be at the Hospital at 7 would mean I have to wake at 5 because rush hour is a bitch and we lived 45 minutes away). We got to the Hospital at 8:25.

I put on the dorky gown and got settled in. Nurses came in and out to attach all sorts of devices to me; an IV, a blood pressure cuff that checks my pressure every 15 minutes, a strap around my belly for the baby's heartbeat and a finger thingy to keep track of my own heartbeat. Now, I am Deaf, and all these wires are getting tangled around my arms and hands when I need to sign, so they made a few concessions for me, the IV was placed a little higher and to the outside of my forearm, the pressure cuff was put around my ankle, but there was no escaping the finger thingy. I had my Hubby there for support (which took some convincing on his part. I had to tell him that he helped make this baby, he can help me get it out! And I didn't expect him to catch it for pete's sakes! That's what the docs are for!!), an interpreter and my mom. Mom was thrilled to be there to see her baby having a baby, and plus, my mom was asleep when she had us, so she didn't really know what childbirth felt like, she only knew the before and after parts.

Anyway, we sat and waited, made small talk with the interpreter and the nurses that came in and out to check on me. About 11 am, the nurse told me to stop being so tough and get the epidural. Huh? I had no idea what she was talking about. Apparently I was having contractions and the spikes on the graph showed I was having them strongly and usually women are screaming for an epidural by now, but I didn't feel a thing. I felt fine, really! Fast forward to about 2 pm and I felt the first painful contraction of many more to come. Under the constant pressure of the nurses, I succumbed to asking for an epidural. I had every intention of going natural without pain meds, but I guess I freaked a little bit when the nurses kept talking about more pain and long labor and basically using scare tactics on me.

Finally about 7:30, I was ready to push. I pushed (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10, deep breath and push again!) and pushed and pushed until I was red in the face. My face usually turns red at the slightest bit of exercise (pretty, I know) and it is normal for me, but the nurses all freaked out and slapped an oxygen mask on me and a cold, wet washcloth on my forehead and turned the fan on me. I was more than a little irritated. I didn't want the frickin irritating mask on my face that steamed up my glasses with every huff and puff, my hair was now wet and dripping and when I finally meet my baby, she was going to see crazy hair, but the fan was fine, it was hot with 26,000 people gathered around me waiting for a head to pop out (ok, more like 20 but it felt like more).

Baby head was finally starting to inch through and the doctor reached for his scalpel to give me an episiotomy, I shook my head no and this very cool, laid back doctor nodded his head once and put it back, pushing the tray away and let me rip naturally (I read that women heal better when they rip instead of being cut with a scalpel, plus my mom has a horror story of when she had me and the pain meds wore off at the exact moment the doc sliced my mom and she jumped and the knife went all the way to her anus, causing her lifetime pain down there). Out came the head, then finally I was given the 'go ahead' to push out the rest of baby-- It's a girl! A big girl! She was 8 lbs, 5 ozs!

I finally got to see this baby, that I had carried around and fell in love with before I ever laid eyes on her and I fell in love all over again. I saw Hubby crying, Mom crying, the interpreter crying, it was a crying party! Hubby went out in the hall and announced to waiting friends and family, "It's a GIRL!" and came back in to me and his new baby. A brand new family. I remember everything about that day and the following days. It's the other stuff in between that becomes blurry and then I have to ask Hubby when this happened or look through the photo albums.

I remember, after they cleaned up Oldest and I was decent, they allowed our friends and family into the room to see us and meet the new baby. I thought to myself, go away, I'm tired and I don't want to let her go, I just had her, I don't want to share her just yet. But I did let her go and let everyone ooh and ahh over my brand new baby.

It has been so much fun to watch her grow and learn, to amaze me with the stuff she knows. I look at her and see me, I see Hubby, I see my sister and other family in her. I have seen her adjust to becoming a big sister and then teaching her little sisters what she knows. I have actually seen the wheels turning in her head, figuring out how to do something and then watching the joy spread across her face, a true "Eureka!" moment. I look forward to the future, knowing she can grow up to do anything she wants, and I'll do my best to help her get there without becoming smothering or turning into one of those pushy mother types. I look forward (and dread) the day she gets her first boyfriend and I hope I am there to catch her when her heart gets broken. I hope we have the same bond that I have with my own mother and that she will trust me with her secrets.

My sweet 5 year old baby, how much I love her. How I find it hard to believe sometimes that she is mine and came from me and Hubby. We created her out of love and the miracle of life still awes us. Today is the day she was born, and it was also the day a set of parents were born. I only hope that she can look back when she is older, and know that everything we did was to help her grow and learn and to prevent her from breaking her neck. I hope that one day she will come to me and say thanks for being the kind of mom I am.

Happy Birthday to you, my love, and may you have many more to celebrate.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Long Lost Sister

I just finished reading Suffering Summer's post about her nephew and it made me think of my own family dynamics. She talks about how her nephew has changed her life in ways she never knew or expected and how much she loves him. I am saddened to say that I have never met my sister's daughter in person. She is pregnant with baby #2 and is due in September and I really hope to see her this summer. Sis hasn't met my youngest girlie, either.

Sis got married to a man that lives in another state and so after the wedding, and when job transfer came through, she settled with her new hubby in his home. They have been busy making his house their home together and got pregnant not long after the wedding. I was so excited for her and the pregnancy, and it was nice that I was pregnant with baby #3 at the same time she was pregnant with her first. We could compare notes and I enjoyed being the experienced one for a change, me being the youngest and already on my third child. But her baby came prematurely and then I felt helpless and prayed that baby would come through healthy. She did and has grown to be a beautiful little girl.

Sis lived with us for a while when we lived at the old house and she was a great Auntie to my first 2 girlies. Then life happened and we got pulled apart; we moved, she moved... I miss my sister and we talk about every 2 weeks on videophone. It's one of those things you hook up to the TV with a camera that sits on top and you call someones' videophone (VP) and have conversation. It's great for us Deaf people, to sit and sign and the conversations flow much faster than it would to type on a TDD (tele-type device for the Deaf) or via e-mails. The kids come in and say hi to each other and then we shoo the kids away and talk and catch up on news, happenings and life. I hope that when we finally manage to get together again, my niece will recognize me as the "lady" that her mommy talks to on the "TV" and won't shy away from me for too long.

My Sis and I grew up sort of separately, with her going away to Deaf school in the fall and coming home on weekends. We had summers together and I remember them as being filled with adventures of us exploring the creeks and woods, imagining ourselves as pirates or detectives. We found the bones of some animal once, and all sorts of tales sprouted-- hunting for vampires eating poor defenseless animals, or something eerie lurking about and what have you. Or we would play on the couch and pretend we were on an island and there were crocodiles swimming in the carpeted ocean just waiting to snap up an overhanging arm or leg and then we'd flail about crying to be rescued! Sis was always a crafty child and taught herself to crochet and cross stitch and plastic canvas, so when she didn't want to be bothered by her little sister, she would shoo me away while she crocheted a granny square blanket or bury her nose in Nancy Drew mysteries.

During the week, when Sis was away at school, I dutifully went to public school every morning, came home in the afternoons and spent my days with mom and dad. We moved a few times and I found it hard to make friends, so I spent a lot of my time reading books or losing myself in fantasy world. I'd wander around the neighborhood on my bike or hike through the woods and come home in time for dinner. Life then was different, and a kid could be left alone without parents worrying about bad people stealing your child away to do harm. I looked forward to weekends, for the short time when Sis was home and I'd have someone to play with. We'd pick her up on Friday afternoons, stop at the food store and then we'd take her back on Sunday.

Now that we are adults and have families of our own, with Sis there and me here, I find it hard and I miss her. I wish she lived next door and our children could play together, grow up close and I could come over for lunch when our hubbies are away. She is a great partner when we go yard sale-ing and thrift store shopping together and I miss her company. I never dreamed that we would end up living so far away from each other and I know that life will do that sometimes, life will take people and tear them apart and plant them to grow in different places. Sis is living a life I am not familiar with, a town I have never been to, a husband I have known only a short time, a daughter I have never hugged. I don't see our paths crossing any time soon, and I have to satisfy myself with occasional visits and bi-weekly VP conversations.

They say that money can't buy happiness. But money could buy me some plane tickets and then I'd take the family and fly. I'd be happy. Money could buy two houses next door to each other and set up a college fund for each kid and have it so the Hubbies don't need to work. Money could buy Sis a craft shop and me a thrift shop. I'd be happy. I'd be happy to see Sis again, hold my niece, give her a kiss and have her meet her 3 cousins for the first time. I'd be happy.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Keep or Toss...

Oldest daughter came to me and asked me for a doll she saw on a commercial on TV. I really don't mind when they watch TV, I just dislike the commercials and I try to find stations that are commercial-free or have them watch movies. The girlies are only allowed to watch no more than 2 hours of TV a day, but sometimes it's more and sometimes not at all. I admit, I use the TV as a babysitter sometimes, I'll pop in a movie and then get dinner started, check my messages on the computer or run downstairs to do a load of laundry.

When I see the girlies watch a commercial, they are fascinated by what is being hawked.. a pony that walks and they can ride, or dolls that converse with you, and the (ever irritating) dolls that come with make-up for her and you! So, Oldest asked me if I would get her this doll that comes with a pet bunny for her, since her birthday is coming up. I made no promises, but used the opportunity to tell her that if she wanted new toys, some old ones would have to go.

Off to the basement we went where there is a mess of toys scattered, no, covering the floor. They haven't been allowed to play down there in a while, precisely because of the mess they made. I have tried all sorts of "methods" to get them to clean up after themselves. The put-it-back-before-you-play-with-another-one trick; labeled bins; setting a timer and letting them race about, dumping toys in this bin or that; nothing works! Until I tried this little trick last week and (so far!) it is working! I took out every single toy on the top floor-- not a single toy in any of the bedrooms or living room, kitchen, dining and sun room. Nothing! Then I got 2 empty bins and told them to pick 5 toys or games each. So they go downstairs and pick out 5 apiece and plop them in the bins.

"Here is the rule, girlies-- you must keep these toys in the bins and when you are done playing with them, back in they go. If you behave badly, I will take a toy away. Good behavior gets a toy." I told them, their eyes telling me that they aren't taking me seriously.

Sure enough, 5 minutes later, Oldest bops Middle on the head and tears erupt. "Give me a toy," I say, in my lowest and sternest voice. Oldest starts to whine and cry and tries to talk me out of taking the toy, but I stand firm and hold out my hand. Middle laughs when she sees Oldest hand over a doll, but she stops laughing when I take a toy away from her a few minutes later for shoving the Youngest off the couch. And so it goes, take a toy, give a toy back for good behavior. It seems to work, there are less toys about and I remind them often to keep their toys in the bins or I'll take them away.

Downstairs, today, we sorted through all the toys into a "keep" bin and a "toss" bin. I was impressed with how many toys they got rid off and I was even a little resistant to some that they wanted to toss. Until I realized that I was the one that wanted to keep it but knowing they didn't play with it, I let it go in the bin. They filled 3 boxes for toss! I will sort through them later, some for the charity shops and some I'll take to the consignment shop to sell and recoup some money back from them.

They had a ball sorting through the toys and when we came back upstairs, I looked at the clock and saw we had been at it for 3 hours! I am in a happy frame of mind now, with a cleaner playroom in the basement and knowing the girlies had lots of fun playing without the TV and not seeing more commercials to tempt them into materialism. I won't be getting Oldest the doll she saw on TV, but I will be getting her other things for her birthday. My baby is going to be 5 on June 5th! We are having a party for her on the 10th and she is looking forward to it, telling me to make strawberry cake, no, chocolate cupcakes, no, the sprinkles cake....